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Posts Tagged ‘backyard chickens’

It’s late Spring here in Sydney, and our garden is glowing green.

Two large clumps of curly parsley are thriving in the first bed, and I’m hoping to make a batch of parsley soup this week.  It’s hard to believe that I was lamenting about how hard this was to buy in June.

We’ve just started harvesting our first Lebanese cucumbers…

Our second bed of corn has been planted, replacing the peas that are now finished…

The first bed of corn is growing at an incredible rate – the plants are noticeably taller every morning, often by several inches.  Pete tells me that corn is a grass, and grows accordingly…

Some of the corn is already flowering – as these plants are wind pollinated, they need to be planted within proximity of each other, rather than scattered throughout the beds..

The garden is full of wee visitors, including dragonflies, bees, paper wasps and these tiny ladybeetles…

Our broccoli, from which we’d harvested a large head several weeks ago, continues to provide small delicious offshoots for our dinners..

This is a single cherry tomato plant.  And now we know to only ever plant one cherry tom in the backyard. The added bonus is that they grow so quickly that almost nothing eats them.

Our basil plants scent the entire garden, and seem to really enjoy their spot beside the tomatoes…

Our other tomatoes are standard romas – they’ve fruited heavily, but none have ripened as yet…

We’ve planted celery in every bed, but the ones in the first bed are now going to seed.  I wonder if we can harvest the seeds for use in our coleslaw?

My favourite vegetable in the garden this season – Tuscan kale, also known as cavolo nero. I use it in place of spinach, and it’s been producing for months now…

And finally, great excitement as our first eggplants are ready for picking! The capsicums are growing well too, but they’re still very green and not nearly ready for harvest.

I’m a little gobsmacked at how well Linda Woodrow’s permaculture principles are working in our suburban backyard. Her plan is clever, well laid out, and ensures that there is always something in the garden for dinner. And we’re all marveling at how fast the process has been – getting ready took a bit of time, but we only really started planting out a few months ago.  Our little patch is now providing eggs for ourselves and my parents, as well as all the carrots, cucumbers, beetroots, cabbages, celery, beans, leeks and herbs that we need.  Hopefully, we’ll soon have enough tomatoes to be able to process our own passata and tomato ketchup, and our potatoes will be ready for harvesting before Christmas.

We’ve been blessed with lots of rain lately, which has helped the garden no end, and we haven’t sprayed anything other than diluted worm pee on the plants. We don’t buy any fertiliser (apart from one initial bag of dynamic lifter), and we don’t worry too much about the insects. As Linda taught us, we don’t have bugs and weeds, we have chicken feed.

Almost all the hard slog is done by our lovely hens, who till and fertilise the soil, eating all the weeds and slugs in the process.  We repay them for their tireless labour with kitchen scraps and garden waste, like this spent broccoli plant.   I’d like to think they’re as happy with us as we are with them!

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Congratulations, Soy!  Linda’s book will be on its way to you soon!

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I can’t believe how fast our garden is growing!

Here’s what the first bed looked like in late August…

…and here it is today.  Over the past five weeks, we’ve harvested broccoli, a dozen lettuces, kale and several beetroots from this bed.

The cabbages haven’t been a great success – we planted them too close together, and possibly a little late.  As a result, they’ve been making lots of leaves, but not forming a tight ball.  They haven’t been going to waste though – the chickens absolutely adore them…

The broadbeans seem to be growing before our eyes at the moment!  We can’t decide whether to eat them young as Linda suggests, or to wait until they’re a bit bigger and shell them..

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Bed number two was newly planted when these photos were taken just over a month ago…

…and it’s grown prolifically! In amongst the jungle of pea shoots, you can see kale, cabbage, broccoli, as well as carrots and lettuce.  We’re following Linda Woodrow’s plan from her book, The Permaculture Home Garden, which very cleverly allocates part of the space in each bed to growing feed for the chickens…

The baby pea pods are forming.  I’m very new to gardening, so I didn’t realise that each flower would turn into a pod.  Now I’m excitedly counting the flowers to see how many peas and broadbeans we’re going to get…

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The dwarf peach and nectarine trees seem to be making lots of fruit, although it’s unlikely they’ll all develop…

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Garden bed number three has potatoes, capsicums, eggplants and tomatoes – this single cherry tomato plant has grown like a weed and is threatening to take over the whole bed…

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We have a blueberry plant growing in a pot, waiting for a permanent home, and somewhat surprisingly, given our temperate climate, it seems to be  fruiting!  Maybe it has something to do with all the bees who visit our backyard now…

In a patch of soil where the chicken dome was originally situated, a small crop of wheat is growing from the uneaten grain mix we were feeding to the girls…

Today’s harvest of sprouting broccoli will be eaten at dinner tonight, simply dunked in boiling water and dressed with a little butter and salt..

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I thought you might also enjoy seeing how the chickens are travelling..here’s Rosemary glaring at me for spying on her while she was laying…

…and Queenie, being very vocal and reminding the others that she’s the boss!

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If you live in Australia and would like to undertake a garden project like ours, we have one copy of Linda Woodrow’s book, The Permaculture Home Garden, to g!ve @way (the funny characters are an attempt to avoid the search bots – I want to g!ve the book to someone who actually reads our blog!).

I was buying a copy for our friend Ian the Chicken Whisperer, and couldn’t resist picking up an extra copy for you.  Linda’s book is tailored for Australian gardens, and is full of brilliant and inspired ideas – you can dip into it for suggestions, or go all out and follow her plan completely as we have.

To εnter, please leave a comment (before 14th October) and tell us  which state you live in and what your favourite vegetable is. And apologies to our international visitors, but we can only ship to Australian addresses this time!

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To those of you who’ve been gardening for years, thank you for putting up with our excited ramblings.  I know this isn’t really a big deal, but because it’s all so new for Pete and I, being able to go out and harvest all these vegetables from our garden was an incredible thrill!

As we didn’t make it to the markets last week, our vegetable crisper was decidedly empty, which made being able to wander outside to pick all these edible greens even more of a buzz.  And we certainly haven’t emptied the first bed – just selectively chosen the plants that were ready, and the ones that needed pulling out to allow room for others to grow.

There was (and still is) a mountain of spinach and curly parsley growing…

We cut the sprouting broccoli (apparently you need to keep trimming it, or it flowers and dies), thinned the overcrowded carrots, and pulled a couple of baby beets to try.  Pete also pulled out a perennial leek, replanting all of her babies for another day…

Finally, six small heads of lettuce came out, leaving room for the others to continue growing…

Our perfect Sunday lunch…Caesar salad, with homegrown mixed lettuce (cos, oak, butter), homemade sourdough croutons and a dressing made with Harriet’s freshly laid egg…

…and lunch today was a stir-fry of mung bean vermicelli, spinach, broccoli, teeny weeny carrots, leek and egg, seasoned with peanuts, fish sauce and lime juice.  Happy days!

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I know what you’re all going to say, and you’re right, we probably do have the most spoilt chickens on the planet.

They’re fed the best food we can afford to give them, from whole heads of cabbage to sourdough pancakes to oven roasted tuna. And because we’re running a chicken spa, they also get a custom dust bath every couple of days.

With the recent wet weather, it’s been hard for the girls to find a spot in the chook dome to take their dust baths – an essential grooming process, necessary to keep them clean and parasite-free.  So…we’ve half-filled an old recycling bin with carefully sifted dry dirt, and this goes into their coop every afternoon for an hour or two.

It’s hysterically funny to watch them – they line up and take turns in the tub,  rolling around in the dirt and flicking it under their feathers to clean them.  They end up coated in a fine sheen, which makes them look as if they’ve been dusted in talcum powder.

Despite being brutally windy yesterday, the sun was quite bright, and I managed  to record this clip of Francesca undertaking her daily ablutions. I thought you might enjoy a glimpse into poultry preening…

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For more chicken posts, please click here

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Am I boring you yet with all these chicken posts?

Just one more to complete the set – I thought those of you who were following their antics might like to know what we eventually named them all.

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Top of the pecking order is Queenie, full working title “Queenie the Meanie”.  She rules the roost like the Emperor ruled the Dark Side.

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Bertha, with her crooked comb and fierce eyes, is Queenie’s enforcer.  She does most of the pecking in the flock.  She is by far the smartest chicken, and Pete’s favourite, as she’ll eat from his hand and likes to follow him around the garden.  She’s also the healthiest, moves the fastest and digs up the most worms. I once watched her in amazement as she tried to catch flying insects, Mr Miyagi-style.

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Harriet, who is so similar to Queenie that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them apart (she has a  marginally lighter coloured head), sits third in the order.  This little gang of three can often be seen eating together, to the exclusion of the others, although Harriet will be pecked away once there’s less food to go around.

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My favourite chicken is Francesca.  With her distinctively dark head and red comb, she is by far the most beautiful lady in the group.  She’s a bit of an enigma, and it’s hard to be sure exactly where she sits in the hierarchy. I’ve never seen her pecked, nor have I seen her pecking anyone else.  All the other chickens leave her alone, but perhaps that’s because she’s learnt to keep out of their way.

Frannie doesn’t particularly like to fly, so will try her hardest to roost anywhere other than the raised platform.  We’re perpetually having to pull her out of the laying box, and she once tried to roost on a stick on the ground.

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Timid little Maggie, with her pecked head, clearly hasn’t learnt how to get out of everyone’s way like Francesca has.  We’re not sure what goes on in the roost each night, but we suspect she doesn’t know her station, and gets pecked mercilessly for stepping out of line.  Chickens are like the mean girls at school – if I watch them for too long, I start having  flashbacks…

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Right at the bottom of the pecking order is little Rosemary.  She’s not shy. Clearly the youngest in the group, she can be downright annoying at times, running around the pen like a mad thing and bodyslamming into the dominant hens while they’re feeding.   She has big yellow legs and I suspect she’ll end up the largest of them all.

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Aside from the pecked heads, our ladies seem very happy, and they certainly have healthy appetites.  We now have four hens a-laying, which provides us with two to four eggs a day.  They looove leftovers, particularly pasta and rice, although Pete won’t let me feed them too many carbs, as he insists it’s very bad for them to get fat.  I guess watching your weight really is the bane of females everywhere!

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