Saterdag 01 Junie 2019

Garden - The joy of Chickens

During January 2019 I decided to get a few chickens. I have the space and may as well produce some food on it. Being OCD and all it was a project for me and not merely a case of getting a few chickens. My first checkpoint was to decide on which breed I want to keep. After a lot of investigating I settled on the Potchefstroom Koekoek. They are one of the four indigenous species of South Africa and in a project done by the University of Potchefstroom they were shown to be the most hardy of the four with very few ailments. Secondly they were found to be excellent egg producers as well as a great source of meat. Hens will render around 3.4kg of meat and cocks can reach up to 4.5kg.

These facts sealed the deal for me and I embarked on a mission to find the stock. I found a breeder near Brits and he did have stock that was classified as "Point of Lay" hens.

For the next few days I constructed the coop and fenced the orchard in properly. The idea was to allow the chickens to run free as much as possible. The orchard is around 30m x 60m and that is more than enough space for what I had in mind. My son had to evacuate one of his crypto mines and gave me a lot of expanded metal that was used for the security cages. I re purposed this for the coop.

With everything in place I ordered the chickens. Eight hens and one cock. My friend Pierre picked them up during a business trip to Gauteng and the chickens arrived here late the evening of 14 March 2019.

They settled in well and I checked for eggs every day. To me, "point of lay" meant exactly that. However the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. On the 22nd of April one of the hens died. After thorough investigation it appeared as if some of the cickens developed an upper respiratory infection. I got the right medication and after 6 days of medication they were all fine.

On the 23rd of May the first egg was in the nest. This was a very good experience for me. It was 10 weeks after I got them. So it looks like "point of lay" is merely a ;able and not really a fact. On the 30th of May there were 4 eggs. I think it is safe to assume that 4 of the hens are in production. Hopefully the other 3 will wake u soon.

Currently 20kg of feed lasts 6 weeks. At R115.00 that is not too expensive.

The first moment  appreciation was when I cooked two of the eggs for breakfast. Wow, the yolks were deep yellow, almost orange and the taste was amazing. After eating shop bought eggs for almost 50 years I once again experienced the real taste of a free range egg.

Another big bonus is the way the chickens are cleaning the orchard. We have massive issues with termites and I am glad to say that there is almost no trace of any termite activity in the orchard. Usually we have lots of flies in the orchard when the guavas starts ripening. The little band of peckers are very busy under the trees and there is almost no trace of flies around.

According to my calculations, I should get 36 eggs per week from the 7 hens. That means that we will be fully self-sufficient as far as eggs are concerned and this will trim around R70.00 from the grocery budget. Friends and family is already keen to buy surplus eggs. Not a really big commercial operation but the chickens should pay for their upkeep.

Important to note that these chickens are not deal for a small town yard because the really dig your place up.

Now the surplus lettuce from the aquaponics is fed to the chickens and not going to waste.

I haven't decided yet if I will allow the hens to hatch some eggs or whether I should buy a small incubator. I would like to get the population to a point where  can slaughter one chicken per week. But that is at least two years into the future.

For now I enjoy my breakfast and love watching the chickens operate in the orchard.

Kook lekker tot ek weer 'n storie skryf.

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