Two hens free to good home

I have a pair of hybrid hens to give away for free. They would be ideal for any person contemplating getting into backyard chook-keeping. They are both 2 years old and still laying eggs. Contact Justin on 0407 515 482.

Bold as brass

DON’T be fooled into thinking that foxes only do their nasty business under the cover of night.

As fox numbers grow to alarming levels in urban areas in Australia, disturbing evidence is coming to ‘light’ that the hungry predator is becoming more brazen than ever. And this is bad news for those who keep backyard poultry.

The days of chooks having the run of the backyard during the day while their owners are at work or at school may be numbered. There are more reports now of foxes being sighted in the suburbs in broad daylight.

A neighbor in suburban West Preston, close to the Merri Creek, told me that he saw a fox in his front yard at 8am as peak hour traffic of cars and trams buzzed by on the busy street outside.

With young foxes on the run at the moment, it may be wise to keep your chooks locked up in a pen while you are away during the day.

Coincidentally, I had a daylight  fox story from the weekend, and luckily it didn’t involve my beloved chooks.

While I was holidaying on the Mornington Peninsula,  visiting the Cape Schanck lighthouse; and what did I spot in the car park?  At 3pm on Sunday, and seemingly totally oblivious to the hordes of tourists around it, a fearless fox went about its business of  sniffing out leftover food. It showed no fear.

People were fascinated, some admired it for its beauty. But I, having witnessed too many times the handiwork of the clever fox, would have not hesitated a chance to run it over. Luckily for the fox though, I didn’t get the chance.

Top comedians say battery cages ‘ain’t no way to treat a lady’

It is great to see five of Australia’s most loved comedians, including Mick Molloy, starring in Animals Australia’s new TV ad to help highlight the cruelty of battery cages. They share the limelight with a delightful Isa Brown hen named Little Miss Sunshine, herself a rescued battery hen!

Check it out!

Keeping faith in your chooks

AND on the Seventh Day he rested. Sunday, of course, is a day of rest – a time to unwind with friends and family, and maybe reflect on matters of faith.
As I sipped on my morning coffee, and watched as my chooks foraged around my backyard, I considered what God would make of how we treat one of his treasured creatures.
Mine are the lucky ones. My Preston backyard would surely be the equivalent of a Club Med resort for these birds when you consider the fate of the average chicken on this planet!
I’ve written often before on this site that our chooks are truly ‘giving creatures’. My five hens, marshalled by their queen Iggy, appeared to have a great morning in the sun, scratching around for food, enjoying a dust bath and then ‘sun-baking’ with their wings stretched out. But even today on our day of rest, my chooks dutifully delivered with a clutch of eggs.
Lost in my thoughts, the chook’s life and how it relates in the world order, I was reminded of a beautiful article written by Andrew and Carol Frost in The Age recently, about faith after minding their neighbour’s backyard chickens.
In it, they wrote: “If we believe ‘all God’s children got wings’ then we have to believe that all God’s creatures have lifeforces or souls. The chickens we cared for had personalities and a real taste for adventure. They couldn’t wait to be let out of their coop and to explore the garden… They needed fresh air and space to run about – much like us in fact.”
I know a lot of you out there already share this philosophy, but if you care about our feathered friends, and haven’t yet tried free range organic poultry, don’t continue to buy caged chicken eggs or meat.
I have no problem about eating poultry products, but surely this creature deserves our respect and the chance to roam a little and enjoy a moment in the sun.

Foxes give Council the runaround

SO sad to hear about another fox attack which has left pet rabbits and chooks dead in Northcote (Fox attack warning, Preston Leader, February 26).

What’s just as upsetting though is local council’s impotence over the problem. Let’s face it! Foxes are running amok in suburbs like Preston and Northcote where they have no real predators, yet councils like Darebin are sitting idly by allowing the carnage to happen, seemingly bereft of ideas to fix the problem.

Darebin Council culture leisure and works director Daniel Freer was reported as saying officers had reported increased sightings of foxes recently. Well, blind Freddie could have told us that!

Have any of your officers actually caught and trapped a fox lately? Why don’t suburban councils like Darebin offer fox bounties like they do in the country? And why aren’t the council or Department of Environment and Primary Industry supplying cages in an attempt to help curb the high numbers of foxes on the run.

Melbourne has Victoria’s highest number of foxes per square kilometre (about 20), and this is even greater along green corridors like the Merri Creek. Foxes have adapted well to their urban environment where they have an ample food supply with the waste we discard. Often they kill chickens and family pets on instinct just for the thrill of it.

As the DEPI’s John Matthews correctly states, there is a spike in fox activity in late summer as cubs disperse, but fox numbers are also high in early spring as mature foxes teach their cubs how to kill.

I would like to see a greater percentage of pet registration fees we pay to council actually spent on  protecting the animals we love!

Dustbowl days

This is a story about an ex-battery hen, a home renovator who hasn’t been able to have a shower for the past three weeks, and the simple pleasure of cleaning oneself.

What, you may ask, is the link? Well, granted the link may be tenuous, but watching the ex-battery hen delighting in a dust bath today got me thinking.

About two months ago, I bought two ex-battery hens from a reputable commercial egg producer north of Melbourne. This operation is totally legit – and the older hens (past their commercial egg-laying used-by date) were in reasonable condition considering they had lived a 18-month life inside the confines of a cage the size of an A3 size sheet of paper, and never been able to bathe.

Imagine that: not being able to bathe, even once. No wonder my liberated chook, named “Dumb” (the other one was christened “Dumber”, and I must admit I get them confused) was in raptures.

See, chooks don’t bathe like us – as in water. They only like water to drink and even on a 40C stinking hot day will run the other way if you get the hose out. Their idea of luxury is to roll around in dust.

Chickens love to take a dust bath and do so as one of their natural defences against lice and other parasites.

Dumb was in heaven, and I was dumbfounded by her antics – it was scratching around for about 30 minutes, continually flicking the dirt through its feathers. It gave me such pleasure to see this chook so happy, especially considering its miserable life before it was freed.

Again, it got me thinking about the plight of the battery hen – how can we treat one of God’s creatures so badly, as to deny them a simple bath.

Well, ever since we ticked over into 2014 I also have been without a bath or shower as my home’s bathroom has been renovated – I’ve had to scrounge showers at friend’s houses and the local swimming pool. This came to a head a couple of weeks ago when Melbourne was in a grip of a heatwave.

But the renovations’ finishing line is in sight, and this smelly amateur tradesman is salivating over the prospect of quenching his hot and bothered body with wonderful water from my shower.

Alas for poor battery hens – there is no dirt to roll their feathers through on the bottom of a steel cage. Hers is a state of permanent renovating discomfort, and definitely no pay dirt!

Double standards with Christmas chook

Hi folks,

No doubt some of you will be looking forward to tucking into a roast chicken on Wednesday for your Christmas lunch. The chook is now standard fare here in Australia and is not considered the luxury that it once was. If anything, it’s a bit of a poor man’s turkey these days with most Australian families serving it as part of their Christmas spread, along with pork, beef and seafood.

Before you dig into your roast, just spare a thought for the chook and the life it had in the leadup to the end of the year. Like most chickens that are processed for meat, it would have  only been on this earth for about 8 weeks – I repeat that, “only 8 weeks”.  

And using the term “life” loosely, it would have been confined to a small cage and fed every additive and hormone known to man to fatten it up for your Christmas feast. But this production and slaughter is quite acceptable in a poultry business beset with rules and regulations. Most chicken producers adhere to animal welfare laws that regulate the industry, and in providing a market product are only satisfying high consumer demand for cheap eggs and meat.

while most people agree this is a barbaric way to raise commercial poultry, not many are prepared to do anything about it – As long as you continue to buy low priced chicken meat there is no incentive for producers to change their ways. So on Christmas Day, think about the chook. There is nothing wrong with us eating chicken, but don’t you think  the bird deserves some respect.

Maybe for next Christmas, think about buying a chook that has been raised humanely or better still, bring up your own. Food for thought at this festive time!

As for my flock, they’re the lucky ones this Christmas. Iggy is back to full health after the September fox attack and now has 4 new mates. They will be enjoying a Christmas lunch of extra big scraps from the kitchen. Merry Christmas everyone!

Foxes run amok

Foxes like to hunt at night

Foxes like to hunt at night

WARNING: Foxes are on the run. So many of my friends in recent weeks have lost chickens through fox attacks. It is heartbreaking because you do get attached to your backyard friends. Spring is the season when foxes are most active; and unfortunately, chickens are fair game, especially if they are not securely housed at night. One theory as to why foxes are so active right now is that they are teaching their young how to hunt food.Foxes are very cunning; and can squeeze through the tightest of gaps. Under all that fur, they are actually a lot smaller than what you think.Foxes like to hunt under a full moon, and also like it when it is windy and wet – they are hard to hear when it’s raining on your roof and blowing a gale. You have to most vigilant on stormy nights.How to you combat them? First, closely inspect  your chook coop for holes. Also, foxes can dig under ground so it’s a good idea to reinforce the enclosure with wire under the ground. Traps are cruel; then again, I can understand why chook owners resort to them. Surveying the carnage after a fox attack can be pretty devastating. Foxes get into a frenzy when they attack and don’t seem to take the chicken away for a feed. This evidence suggests that they are merely demonstrating how to kill.

Battery hens

factory hens

Uncertain fate for these ex-battery hens

THIS would have to be the best way to buy chooks. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, buying ex-battery hens makes you feel good and saves the life of a chook too. The delight at seeing a hen experience the rays of the sun on her back for the first time and take its first dust bath is certainly worth the small cost.

There are many organisations around Melbourne that ‘liberate’ battery hens, but it’s just as easy to approach the egg producers yourself (some are listed at the bottom of this post). I did this on the weekend and purchased two old hens for $5 each – a bargain when you consider most point-of-lay pullets cost about $20 – and both have already produced eggs.

It may be a shock when you first see them. Most of the hens look like porcupines without their feathers. However, with a little TLC, sunshine and a diet of backyard vegetation and kitchen scraps, these chooks will regrow their feathers and develop muscles and coordination for life outside the space of an A4 cage.

Producers: Farm Fresh YarraValley, 738 Maroondah Hwy, Coldstream (03) 9739 1581 Casaccio Egg Farm, 170-198 Bulban Rd, Werribee (03) 9749 7054Yarrambat Doreen Farm Fresh Eggs, Doreen