My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?


How many chicken coops does a girl really need?

Melissa at vuchickens had a new chicken house built. I watched her coop building posts with ever increasing envy but I already have three coops so I dare not to suggest to my husband that I would like a new one like the one vuchickens has. DSC_0001_2045 This is my very first chicken coop before I knew what I was doing. I bought this one for the stray chicken that turned up at my place but when I introduced 2 Barnevelders to the mix, it quickly became apparent that this coop was far too small. They did however, free range all day so they really only had to sleep in this. DSC_0108_2430 A very short time later, we decided to upgrade to this coop. This was advertised to house eight to ten chickens. That should be enough room for our girls.


But then my bantam went broody and we bought her some fertile eggs. She hatched her chicks but we decided they needed their own nursery coop away from the main hen house. So we got this chicken coop for her to raise her chicks in. We sold Hannah’s chicks shortly after but decided to keep the coop as a future maternity coop. We also kept the first small coop as a sick bay if it was ever needed.

Then somehow we had a chicken population explosion.

Firstly a rooster arrived from across the road. He preferred my ladies, my food and my accommodation. We kept him. His name was King George.
A few months later, his girlfriend from across the road also came to live with us. Her name is Aunty Dorrie and she is a silkie cross bantam.
A few more months went by and then a Silver Spangled Hamburgh rooster turned up, also from the farm across the road.
Then we decided we didn’t have enough egg laying poultry. We were only getting eggs from two of the six poultry living with us
. So we bought two Plymouth Barred Rocks who had just started their first laying season. So when we brought the Plymouth Barred Rocks home (Hillary and Henley) and my husband and I were outside  trying to rearrange the coops to fit everyone in, he said “I think we need to buy a proper chicken coop to keep all these chickens in”. DSC_0025 So after a quick happy dance and before he could change his mind, we went inside to do some internet shopping. We found the perfect chicken coop that houses up to 20 chickens and comes in a flat pack. The site for the new chicken house was cleared of trees and the footings have been put down.



I need some new chickens to boost my egg production


I currently have four chickens but I am only getting eggs from the two Barnevelders and their eggs I would describe as rather minimal. They average five to six eggs between them each week. And since my household has more people living in it than it used to, I need more eggs than what these girls can produce.

Hannah bantam is almost eight and lays at the beginning of the season for a few weeks and then stops. Understandable of course at her age. Aunt Dorrie bantam lays in the bushes and is an expert at hiding her little creamy coloured eggs.

So my husband and I agree to buy two new pullets. How exciting choosing a new breed.

My criteria was:
Available now as point of lay or already laying in their first season
There must be two so they would always have each other
Heritage and heavy breed (my rooster is large)
Friendly and calm
Good layers

It is the beginning of the hatching season here in New Zealand and do you know how difficult it is to find a pullet? There are almost none. One breeder told me that she did not sell point of lay pullets due to the cost to keep a chicken to point of lay and the inability to recuperate that cost. I was quite surprised to hear that. I wonder if it was just the one breeder I spoke to or if that is common practice. She sells hers all as chicks.

So I searched Trademe (New Zealand’s Ebay) and a few weeks after starting my search, I found these beautiful Plymouth Barred Rock girls who had just started laying in their first season. This was a breed I and been looking for and these ones must have been meant for me as they were just down the road from where we live. Quick, press the “buy now” button before anyone else can buy them.

We bought them home and settled them into a coop near where the main coop is and where the girls can all see each other as the free rangers wander past.


As you can see, Helen stopped to say hello.
Helen, meet Henley.
Henley, meet Helen.
If anyone was going to raise hackles I knew it would be Helen.

She is second in the pecking order and would be horrified to think that might be in jeopardy.

You can see King George’s cage in the foreground. We made sure he was involved in all of the action while he waited in the cage to see the vet.



King George and his trip to the vet



We did manage to get KingGeorge into the cage.

After a few failed attempts at catching him, we decided to put some of his favourite treats into the cage and hope that he would just walk in. The cage opens fully at one end.

And yes, that is exactly what George did. He saw me sprinkle the treats on the cage floor and he wandered in and started to eat. I was behind him to shut the door.

King George behaved himself in the car and at the vets but unfortunately he is not with us anymore. I made the decision to have him humanely put down as he had a tumour on his spine and would not have recovered. At least now he is not in pain.

So for someone who did not like roosters and never wanted one, I am really sad at the passing of George. He was so gentle and caring of his girls and would eat out of my hand when I offered him treats.

I guess Jonathan Livingstone will take over the running of the flock now that King George has gone.



King George is unwell


King George is unwell. I am not sure what is wrong. I know he has a sore foot but I don’t think that would be enough to cause his general malady. He spends a lot of his time drooping and falling asleep whilst standing, like this.

Jonathan Livingstone in the background doesn’t seem to care.


Somehow we need to try to get George into this cage for his visit to the vet tomorrow morning.



Our defiant bantam, Aunt Dorrie

After finding Aunty Dorrie’s broody nest and her 18 eggs and after moving her and said eggs to a maternity coop where she would be clean and dry and her babies safe, she sat tightly on her eggs……

For two days! TWO DAYS!

After the two days she got off those eggs and paced up and down in her coop. She was very loud with her pacing! She squawked and complained and made it known that she was not happy being penned in.

I gave her one more chance. Perhaps after sitting on her beautiful eggs for one more night, she will remember that she has a job to do and she will stay sitting.

But the next morning, there she was at 6:00am standing in the run looking at me defiantly. I opened the egg hatch and looked in to see how her eggs were doing. I reached in and felt them and they were stone cold. So she hadn’t even been sitting on them overnight!

So I stomped grumpily around to the door of the coop, opened it and out she ran into the trees. Off you go then, you ungrateful little bantam. You will have to continue sitting on eggs out there in the wild and have your babies hatch and not survive.



Look at her the day after she ran out of the coop. Still looking defiant. But King George has his favourite girl back.


Aunty Dorrie the bantam and her 18 eggs

My friend arrived at my house with her gumboots and a determination to find Aunt Dorrie and her eggs. I have shared with her over the last 10 months or so, the saga and the stories of Dorrie and my attempts to help her hatch her chicks and have them survive.

The search area we had to work with is large and treacherous (prickly gorse and dense vegetation including cutty grass and slippery clay banks). So with our gumboots on and the sun shining, we began our search.

We started where I had been searching the day before, near the lone egg. A little further down the bank from where I had been searching, my friend spotted a nest with three of Dorrie’s eggs. Why on earth didn’t I see this yesterday. Maybe because the sun wasn’t shining yesterday. There they were sitting just under the ferns with the sun shining right through and the eggs glowing beautifully in the dappled sun. But these eggs were stone cold. We were pretty sure this was not Dorrie’s broody nest.

So we spread out a little and my friend was very brave and forced her way up another steep slippery hill through tight and treacherous vegetation. There she found lots and lots of broken egg shells. She had found Dorrie’s last broody nest and her chicks had obviously hatched but not survived. (This is a very experienced chicken friend who has hatched lots of chicks and knows what a hatched eggshell looks like.) This made me all the more determined to find her current broody nest. I needed to get her and her eggs into a safe coop so that when the chicks hatch, they have a chance of survival.

So after searching this particular hill to no avail, we moved to another area that was perhaps less likely for her to be in but easier to search as the vegetation was a lot less treacherous and not as steep.

We searched for another thirty minutes with nothing. So we moved further down the hill. As my friend climbed the fence to search the vegetation on the roadside, I was starting to become a bit despondent. There are so many places that she could have her nest where we would never see her. She is so small and her colouring is camouflaged against the ferns and bushes.

And then I turned and there she was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was sitting under a few straggly bushes and was barely sheltered at all. She was all fluffed up sitting tightly on her babies-to-be.

I called my friend over. This is so exciting and I was so glad she was here to help me and to share the excitement. The plan had been to find Dorrie and then to come back at night to move her and her eggs as that is the best time to move a broody without the risk of her abandoning the eggs.

But we agreed that it would be too difficult to get back down here in the dark, so we made a decision to move her now.

I gently scooped her up (remember this is a bantam who has never been held and lives “in the wild”) and she sat quietly. She was in her broody trance, thank goodness. I carried her as quickly as I could up the hill, through the trees and bushes and vegetation and up the steep slippery clay bank and onto the lawn in front of the house. I carried her across the lawn and she started struggling and squawking! I am so glad that King George, the rooster was way down the hill on the other side of the house. He started calling out when he heard her distressed screeching  and then the rest of the girls started squawking. We finally got to the maternity coop without any mishaps, my friend opened the door and in Dorrie was placed.

Yes, we should have had a bucket with us on our search to collect the eggs and bring them up at the same time but remember the plan was to get Dorrie and the eggs after dark. So we ran off to the garage, got a bucket, ran back down the steep slippery clay bank, down the hill and through the vegetation and back to the nest.

We collected up eighteen eggs and carried them back to the maternity coop and gently placed them in the clean, dry wood shavings. Aunt Dorrie was pacing up and down in the run and after a while she went into the house and found her eggs. She came in and out a few times but after a while she stayed in the house, hopefully sitting on her eggs.

Now it is a waiting game but so far so good. This is what I like to see. A maternity coop with no sign of the broody mum out and about.


Thanks you Trish for helping me search for Dorrie. I couldn’t have done it without you.


The continuing saga of Aunt Dorrie and her eggs

Continuin the saga of Aunt Dorrie and her eggs.

I was determined to find Aunty Dorrie’s broody nest this time. So I lay in wait mid morning for her to come running and bokking for her mid morning food, water and preening trip off the nest. I would search the area where I had seen the lone egg the day before. Sounds easy.

So mid morning, bok, bok, bokking, along came Dorrie running across the lawn. While she was desperately filling her crop, I slipped away to search for her nest. Off down the bank I went towards the lone egg. I searched and searched. I lifted dense vegetation, even though this could be harbouring large spiders and other such crawly things that I wouldn’t be too keen on finding. I stood up rather defeated. There was no nest. It was just that, a lone egg.

But not all is lost. I would stalk Dorrie and if I was quiet enough, I would see exactly where she went. So I slipped and slid back up the bank and waited for Dorrie to finish her preening.

Then she was off, running back toward the hill. Then she stopped behind a fern and sat in the early Spring sun for more preening. The other girls and boys were also sitting in the sun in the same spot. So I waited and I waited. I may have glanced away a couple of times but she was still there. I could see her partridge colouring shining in the sun behind a fern

Then she moved. Very fast. She wasn’t slipping and sliding. I glanced down to check my footing and momentarily lost sight of her.

There she was again, just a bit further down the hill than I expected her to go. She wasn’t moving fast but she was definitely on a journey further and further down the hill. I kept following her and she stopped. I came round the corner and came face to face with her.

But is wasn’t her was it! It was Hannah. The other bantam. I had been following the wrong bantam!

Did they plan this together to trick me?


See how similar they are? I guess it is easy to mistake one bantam for the other when they are running between the trees and bushes away from me.

There is only one more thing for me to do. Invite my very experienced chicken friend to help me search the whole area.