I mentioned briefly in my last post that Stephen had been working inside the chicken coop on the weekend, building a new garden bed. You might wonder what on earth we were trying to do! Anyone who keeps chickens will know that garden beds are an irresistible source of entertainment for animals that Love. To. Scratch!
The short answer is: chicken forage. 🙂
Outside the coop we have some Queensland Arrowroot growing in a tub. It provides a good deal of summer protection from the North sun, and we have been experimenting with growing it inside the coop for the chickens to nibble on. We’ve had one plant “growing” inside the coop over the summer. I say “growing”, because this plant is just clinging to life. Every time it even thinks of sprouting a new leaf, it gets pounced on and savaged. Our chookies like their greens!
Can you spot the Arrowroot plant there on the left of our two new chookies? It is a very spindly specimen!
We figured we would put in a whole row of plants, allowing each individual a chance to hide amongst the rest and to grow up above the pecking height of the chickens. With the removal of the bulky old feeder set up, a nice bit of space was revealed, and the idea of the garden bed was born.
We didn’t need anything particularly fancy: just a place to stick some reasonable soil (the coop floor is very compacted, shallow, and sits on sandstone). It also needed to be covered in a chicken-scratch-proof net of some kind that would stop the chooks from digging it out. We decided that a diagonal shape was best, as the chickens love to dirt-bathe down the end of the run, and perch in the back corner. It would give us more space to plant up in the top of the run, and less space down the back where it gets pretty inaccessible.
We used compost, manure and hay to make a Lasagne-layer filling for the new bed, and some old bit of green plastic fence mesh as a topper. The chickens were pretty excited when the compost went in! Now that we have put the mesh on top they are less impressed, but they are perching on the bed, so we figured that it has provided them with a little extra entertainment. 🙂 The new Arrowroot plant seems to be faring quite well. It still has leaves!
Harriet isn’t in too many of these shots, because she has started going clucky again and is frequently sitting in the nest boxes. But she came out to see what all the fuss was about. You can see her puffing herself up like a nice fluffy quilt:
Normally Harriet is smaller than Raven, but when she is clucky she puffs up like this and starts bokking away. Funny girl!
Rose is a little less shy, now. She is maybe starting to get a few tail feathers. Hasn’t she got enormously long legs? We had to jack up the waterer quite high because she is taller than all the other chickens.
As I write this tonight we are finally getting a trickle of rain. What a relief! Hopefully it will allow our new bed to settle in, and give the chickens some puddles to play with in the morning. 🙂