All Chook Up

It is 9pm and just barely light, bedtime for the 26 meat birds.  The Bearded One goes up to their pen and ushers them into the coop for the night with a broom.  Even from the comfort of my computer chair with a cup of tea and Garfield in my lap — I have morning chicken duty — I hear them squawk and honk and complain.  They do not just go to bed in a neat row on a roost like the layers even when it’s dark.

After the Bearded One corals them all into the coop and closes the top, he rakes the peat moss to cover the copious chicken poop.  I sip my tea and pat my cat and read about my Australian friend’s efforts to fertilize her crummy silty soil with chook poo, which is Australian for chicken poop.

“What are the contents of chook poo?” I asked the Bearded One this afternoon when I started my research.

“Sweetie, poop is a base element,” he replied.  We’ve been making chook poo jokes ever since.  What else can you do?

It was stinking badly enough yesterday that we both got a whiff of it out on the road, so we added 6 more bales of peat moss today to make our deep litter method of poop management work with this many chickens.

The hauling mechanism. Six bales of peat moss at $12/each.

A thin layer of peat moss has worked well with our layers, but there are only 10 of them, five are banties, and they run around the whole pasture pooping all day.  The meat birds sit a lot, they don’t scratch around much at all, and it’s hard to keep all their poop buried in the composting peat moss.

The meat birds help disperse the bales.

Twenty-six Cornish Rock broilers each produce 2 pounds of poop a week.  They’re 7 weeks old now, and the plan is to harvest them on August 25 with our neighbor Momma Goose.  Three-and-a-half weeks to go.  That’s 182 more pounds of poop between now and then.  At least it composts well.  Then the smell disappears completely.

Chook poo does make excellent fertilizer, but it’s too “hot” with nitrogen (1.8%), phosphate (1.5%), and potash (0.8%) to put directly on a garden without letting it compost with hay and dead plants for at least a month.  But with our cool summer this year, the composting takes longer.  It’s been cloudy all week.

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,” the Bearded One sang to me this afternoon when I complained about the forever cold weather, “Only poop when she’s away.”

Gardening has been a trial this year.  It’s a combination of worn-out soil (it takes only a couple of years to leech) and no heat.  The whole country is burning up but we’re still running the space heater in the kitchen.  The Bearded One wears a heavy flannel shirt to split wood.  The corn is barely knee-high the first week of August.  The beans are scarce and wimpy.  What’s the point?

The struggling corn, pumpkin and bean garden.

The broccoli and cabbage are lush and delicious.

So are the berries, onions and potatoes.  Note to self:  Stick to vegetables that grow well in a cool climate.

The potato, cabbage, broccoli and onion garden. Raspberries, boysenberries and marionberries against the back fence.

He cleans his boots with the hose and a brush, but they still reek, so he leaves them in the enclosed entry porch aka the cat condo overnight.  The meat birds are tucked in for the evening once again.

Finally, he comes in the front door.  I come downstairs to get more tea.

“They were scattered all over the freaking place,” he says, “the usual thugs flapping to a hiding place behind the coop.”  I smile and kiss him.  “Poor sweet baby,” I say.

He opens the fridge and reaches for a Coke, which is beside the Tupperware which still holds the precious rubber egg that I can’t quite bring myself to throw away yet.  He ignores the egg and pops open a can of his favorite nectar of the gods.

He drinks deeply and says, “I’m all chook up.”


6 responses to “All Chook Up

  1. Christine Widman

    Here we are “All chook up” (lol by the way) emailing wedding plans/ideas etc back and forth with our darling youngest daughter who is being married at our B&B in October.
    I’ve been down a rabbit hole for days putting together a 275 photo history DVD of bride and groom and their families to show the night before the wedding.
    I’ve only come to ground this morning to sniff the monsoon creosote-scented desert air.
    We have had rain galore all week. Everything here is happy.
    The desert cottontails are hopping around, the silky flycatchers are gorging themselves on all the insects that the rain has released from underground, even the tarantulas are crawling about.
    Walking through our carport last night in the dark, I realized a tremendously large tarantula was creeping along beside me.
    Love the cartoon of the Bearded One with his “putting chickens to bed” broom.
    Can’t wait to see you, the Bearded One, and your glorious Farmlet this month.

    • Thanks, Christine. It was 44 degrees on the deck here this morning…but it’s not raining! I’m so glad you’re getting the precious water you so badly need. Happy engagement to Ashley!…and I am looking forward to seeing you, too. I’ve got your jams set aside.:)

  2. Much enjoyed, Christi. I do something like that with what I clean out of my parrot’s cage. Besides parrot droppings, that amounts to stray seed husks, stray pellets, newspaper, ground corncob liner and preened feathers. I take it over to a garden-like area and bury it. Essentially, I bank fortified soil over time. I don’t do it often enough with enough birdcage cleanup to make the soil over-nitrated, though.

  3. It sounds like we are living on the same meridian at the moment Christi! We actually have warmer temperatures here (12C…constantly…until night when it drops below 0C) and its mid winter! Its a good idea to stick with short season and frost/snow tolerant veggies when you live in a cold climate. You CAN grow corn, just get what we get which is short cropping corn. I wonder if I could send you some seeds from Tasmania? We have incredibly strict customs control here thanks to Tasmania being one of the chief opium poppy growing industries and having an amazing honey industry here that is free of that nasty pest doing the rounds of most country’s bees at the moment (too lazy and its too early for me to look it up 😉 ). The bearded one is in good company with “Aint no sunshine when she’s gone” as we were singing (albeit a bit out of tune and most enthusiastically AND closely followed by a stanza of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that sent the dogs scattering to the loungeroom to escape…) it last night. We have plenty of sunshine at the moment and everything is under the false pretenses that the lack of rain and extended sunshine means spring is just over the horizon. I, myself, know that we will be frosty till october and am NOT getting fooled by any of it this year!

    I love being your “friend in Australia”. At least if we ever do a house swap we will know what we have to do at the other ones house lol! You will have to amuse Earl (prerequisite to a happy life) and I will have to broom up the broilers. Don’t be surprised if Ruby has moved into your bed (along with the broilers) when you get back though…Your veggies (the cold climate ones) look amazing! I wish we could garden in the soil but we are in the process of being positive about it and forming raised beds. We just got 9 hardwood sleepers (barter is wonderful 🙂 ) with a posibility of more and I have all sorts of ideas ruminating about in the empty space between my ears involving all sorts of time and money saving ideas for facilitating vegetable and fruit (and nut) growing on Serendipity Farm. I love reading about your adventures and your day to day life because it makes me feel a camaraderie and hope in the human race. We might be on the other side of the world to each other…we might be from different countries and have our own customs and beliefs but we share a common bond of humanity that has us struggling under the weight of work, chook poo and all of the other nefarious “stuff” that goes with trying to take our lives back into our own hands. Cheers for another wonderful read and a great start to our day. Off to walk the dogs, pick up some coconut to make some lamingtons (bribery to facilitate the desire to pass hardwood sleepers on for no cash outlay 😉 ) and get ready for a weekend of predicted rain (in other words…more 12C sunny rain free weather for us!)
    Have a great day and crank up Bill Withers…”AINT NO SUNSHINE WHEN SHE’S GONE” 🙂

  4. Yes, yes, yes! “Taking our lives back into our own hands” “camaraderie and hope” “Bill Withers”! I just printed out a Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Table and am taping it next to my computer. I see that 12C is 53.6F which isn’t too far off of what we get to each day, in the shade. Direct sun and it gets into the 16-22C range. We aren’t freezing at night, that’s the biggest difference in summer and winter here! AND the length of the days. Light means a lot to plants. 🙂 Customs is crazy here, too. I included 6 dog biscuits for Earl and Bezial in the box we sent you and the postal worker looked at me like I was crazy and wanted an estimate of their weight and value! Uh…

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