Let me begin by saying I never was much of a bird person. Other animals certainly. And sure as a kid I had a budgie which my dear little sister let out and it off it went to be free. It was cute but it was caged and that just never worked for me. So as an adult owning my own small holding just outside of Durban Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa it was of course a no brainer that I would have horses and cats and dogs and attempt to get my mother to return my newzealand red rabbit. But chickens??? After a number of years of visiting a good friend in the Karoo and having eggs every morning from her free rangers I finally began to consider that maybe buying free range eggs from the local supermarket was an act of stupidity especially since I had 8 acres of property and an old pump house that I could conceivably house chickens in. How much work could all this possibly be?
A lot it turns out. Pimping a pump house as a chicken house took a severe amount of effort, much help from the parentals and a garden guy with a penchant for building. Finally when it was ready and by that I mean predator proof including bird netting over the top of the run the search for chickens began
The pimped out pump house
Straight off let me tell you that white chickens freak me out! So when a person is looking for non white chickens (is that the PC term?) all you seem to find is white chickens. The other thought was that I wanted youngish chickens so I had a chance to tame them and not have them running for their lives every time they saw me. I looked for a long time. I was offered bantams, all sorts of versions of these, brown fully grown laying hens at a huge amount of money and many many Zulu fowl with their long legs and attitude. None of them were right for me. I wanted them to free range but also to lay a decent size egg. Also I was not prepared for day old chicks of indeterminate sex. Finally the Farmers Weekly came to my rescue and 20, 4 week old Boschvelder chickens arrived in a ventilated box at King Shaka airport cargo area. For those of you who don’t know Boschvelders they are a purely South African breed of chicken. They are a multi purpose chicken that is indigenous to the north of this country known to be tough in bad weather and good layers to boot. They have the most beautiful speckled feathers and grow to be quite large birds. The lady I sourced them from delivers sexed birds all over the country and in to adjoining countries. It also turns out that she supplies the supermarket I was buying from with her free range eggs. I was eating Boschvelder eggs all along and didn’t have a clue!
Chicken line up on their home made perches
What can I say? From the day that I tried to take them one by one out of their box and they all escaped speedily I have been well and truly captivated. I spend time with them in the mornings while waiting for my horses to finish eating. They have gone from haring away from me as soon as they heard me coming to the door to let them out, to all sitting on the one windowsill waiting to see me arrive and leaping/ flying on to my arms to try and get to the brown rice breakfast first. My favourite time though is in the evening when I call them in and sit with them for a while. Many roost at my feet and the friendliest come for a tummy rub and then settle themselves on my lap tucking their little heads under their wings and snooze. I think about how blessed I am to have such trusting little feather balls sleeping peacefully on me that I really think that eggs will just be a bonus.
hen or rooster???
hen or rooster?