Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Figured I should get around to this sooner rather than later as I'm fairly slack.

3.5 weeks ago we bought 6 baby Light Sussex chickens from the same breeder where Donna got hers from. They're all still alive, which seems to me like quite a miracle! One of the chickens has a large, distended bottom which doesn't seem to be getting worse, but looks a little frightening. I will try and post some photos tonight to show what I mean. We call that one J-Lo. Poor J-Lo.

We've been busy getting the chook pen up and running, as the chickens are getting a bit too big for the dog crate and when I came home on Monday they were all suffering quite a bit from the heat - open beaks, heavy breathing. I swung into action and turned a fan onto them and spritzed them with water. The lamp is now off permanently and they seem thrilled to bits. I feel quite sorry for the poor little buggers, being at the hands of this useless chook keeper! The pen is nearly finished and we hope to have them in by Tuesday, which will be 4 weeks since we got them, so they'll be around 4.5 – 5 weeks old by then. Should be plenty. I'm a little worried about one of them as it only has feathers on its wings and hasn't developed any more feathering since then. Will see how it goes though. If it's going to die, I really hope it's a rooster!

My sister and her family live on acreage about 45 mins from us, and we paid them a visit on the weekend. I love it out there, but the issue of schools for my little girl worries me, so acreage will have to remain a dream either for when kids are out of our hair, or if we win the lotto – the latter being the preferable scenario! Anyway, they scored new neighbours about 6 months ago and these people are my sort of people! I've noticed that they have chooks and fruit trees (all of which earn them brownie points with me!) but my sister was telling me that they have a huge veggie patch and grow everything organically. Truckloads of brownie points! So I left my sister's house feeling all inspired and went home to our little 607m² suburban block and got sowing on Sunday afternoon!

The veggie beds (there are 3 – one more coming in February) have all sat reasonably dormant since the pumpkins were harvested too early from bed #1. At least I got some corn out of that bed! Bed #2 has had beans in it for ages and they've gone quite crazy, but this is a good thing. There's also some tomatoes in there, but they're suffering shockingly. I think they're not getting enough water, or the soil I bought from a well renowned landscape centre ("organic vegetable mix" - haha!), which was full of onion weed, was no doubt also contaminated with verticillium wilt as well. I'm such a cynic. Anyway, bed #3 has had carrots in it for ages, but they had gone a bit woody, so I gave them to the dogs and worked the bed over with some compost and sowed some different lettuce, pak choi and then put a shade cloth over it (in the hope that this will help). Now, here's hoping it all goes gangbusters again!

Another thing about being at my sister's place – there's an awesome produce store just down the road! I had been paying $6 for 3kg bags of chick starter, but they had 20kg bags for $20! Naturally, I bought one. Let's see how quickly the little buggers can eat that (assuming they'll manage without any problems). The produce store also sold huge round bales of hay for $75! When our derelict old garage and driveway are demolished (we are putting a car port at the front and getting rid of the long, useless driveway), I plan to put a small shed or two in place of the current garage and carport – I need enough covered area for one of those bales too as I reckon it'll save a bucket of mullah having one of those handy for mulch, chook bedding etc. I never thought I could get so excited about a stupid bale of hay!

I bought a 'condo avocado' and 'condo mango' tree from Kendall Farms ( his daughter lives in Brisbane and keeps a small supply of plants, which she delivers for just $20!) a little while back, but they are still sitting in the pots because I need to get rid of my grafted pink eucalyptus (Summer Beauty) I think. My brother-in-law says he wants it, so I'll need to wait another week before we get it out there as they are away this weekend. I'll plant the Avocado tree in it's place. I'm not sure where I'll put the mango tree. They both should only get to 2.8 metres in height, but the only other spot suitable for the mango tree is right under the power lines and I reckon the local possums will soon start eating the fruit. At least if I put it somewhere else, the possums won't go there (or if they do, they'll likely meet our dogs, the poor buggers). So I'm tossing this one up a bit. Maybe I've just got too many fruit trees for our crappy little block!

I can't wait for Donna's garden visit on Sunday! Woohoo!

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Comment by Florence on January 23, 2010 at 11:42
Thanks Lotte, I will keep that in mind. We are raising 2 baby chicks at the moment, and raised 4 hens last year, if we are getting anymore, it would be next spring now to stagger the egg laying as egg production suppose to decline after the first couple of years :)
Comment by Lotte on January 22, 2010 at 14:14
Oh and Donna, our dogs are outside dogs, young (both are 5) and also think that everything that moves should be killed. I cannot tell you how many possums, blue tongues etc. they've taken. Needless to say, there will be a VERY SOLID fence constructed to restrict their access to the chook pen. I reckon one of them would be ok as she's so fat and lazy (much like me), but Simon is a fruit cake to the point where he is on antidepressants to calm him down - he is barking mad!
Comment by Lotte on January 22, 2010 at 14:11
Actually, Florence, my sister's neighbour has bantams - the ones with feathers on their feet (Faverolles I think they are?). I know she breeds Silkies, but I'll ask my sister to find out if she can get you some bantams. My sister is away until Tuesday, but I'll get onto it ASAP if you want me to.
Comment by Donna on January 22, 2010 at 13:54
Worst case I guess is they tell you to get rid of some, pretty sure there is no fine...
Comment by Donna on January 22, 2010 at 13:52
We were only going to have three... but we ended up with four, one we got has a deformed foot so she wanted it to go to a backyard home - it was only $5, mine were around three to four months old.

Our dog is an inside dog and thinks any animal that moves needs to be killed, that includes chickens, possums, rabbits, birds (these are all from prior experience!) She is getting on in years (9 or 10 - which is good for a large breed dog) so maybe when she passes away I will let the kids get some eggs or chicks.

Florence, I don't think she has bantams but it would be worth a phone call when you are ready to see if she has contacts as she shows her chickens.
Comment by Lotte on January 22, 2010 at 13:51
I think it was just the Wyandottes, Sussex (speckled, buff etc) and Modern Game.

Just get another 2 or 3. If you've got the room, I'd just do it. I don't know where they get this limit of 6 from at Council. If they're not bothering your neighbours, just do it. Put it this way, I have no intention of being overly obedient when my rates have gone up by $100/quarter in 4 years to fund Can Do Cam's tunnel vision BS.

(Having said that, I'm not going to go beserk either, but I can't see anything wrong with having 8 or 10 chooks if they're not a nuisance).
Comment by Florence on January 22, 2010 at 13:43
Oh wow, I know where to get Wyandotte now when I want new chooks!! Maybe a while though since we've reached our limit of 6 and they are all still young... Do you know what other ones she breeds? Any bantams?
Comment by Lotte on January 22, 2010 at 13:36
That's actually really sound advice, Donna. I will call her when I'm certain and arrange something with her. Like you said, I could always just pay for some hens. Either way, I won't let the roosters go to waste - a dead bird should at the very least be eaten!

What size did you get? $10 is a bargain... I'll recommend her too. They were just such lovely people. I'd like to get a Wyandotte, actually, and I know that she breeds these as well. Did you see her Modern Game Birds? They're freaky looking, aren't they?

Next time I head out her way, I'll let you know in case you want me to get more for you as well :-) Don't forget, if you ever want to raise chicks (my daughter has found it pretty exciting doing this), I've got the set-up organised with lamp, cage, feeders etc. so if you want to borrow them just let me know.
Comment by Donna on January 22, 2010 at 13:29
Well... depends how you look at it I guess - free range organic chooks from the supermarket cost at least $15, you have been feeding it etc.

I think you have to pay at the pound to drop off roosters - even if you pay her to buy a new one (the size I got was $10 each) it would still be cheaper and at least it wouldn't be wasted (ie eaten).

They were really nice to me, and I will continue to recommend them to anyone looking for chickens so that is good marketing for them - I had to go back and fess that my dog ate one, please can we buy another...
Comment by Lotte on January 22, 2010 at 13:18
Donna, I got the chooks from the lady at Chambers Flat, where I think you also got yours (??) and yeah, she did say that I could come and swap them for similar aged hens, but she did say that the cockerels would be eaten, so I had to be ok with that. Which I am 100% fine with. I'd feel a bit funny taking them back, though, given that I paid $5 each (they're $35 sexed from City Chicks).

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