Free range

It has been chook chaos for a few days as Butter, Satay and Popcorn settled in and we figured out how to accommodate them. They found cosy spots to nest in pine needles under the raspberry bushes and in the rosemary and Mexican daisies.

Before you knew it, they’d be scratching in the vegetable garden. The netting and barricades of pots were no obstacle.

Several times, Satay, perching on the back of an outdoor chair began tapping on the window: “Let me in!”

It was time to restrict them to a corner of the garden. My sister and family got stuck in. The chooks took a great interest in everything – particularly when the ground was disturbed and they could fossick for insects.

Later in the day, steps up to the nesting box were assembled from paving stones as one of the chooks seemed to struggle to jump in when it was time to retire for the night.

Today the chooks showed little inclination to leave their enclosure when I opened the gate. Instead, they watched with close interest as I cleaned out their nesting box. I adjusted a climbing rose branch for them to perch on by tying it down with string to brick. With luck, the string won’t give way and send them in a flurry of feathers into orbit. The “sofa” of straw was soon pulled apart and analysed. They have shade and sun and the trees screen them from the house.

“This is not how I pictured spending my retirement,” I thought as I scooped poop yesterday. This morning, I was able to clean up the lawn and hose it down so it can be walked on without having to change into gumboots.

Only one of the chooks, Popcorn, appears to be laying – one egg a day. The other two may be a bit past it. This is not an economically viable undertaking then, with the purchase of hay, mash, pellets and seed and grit mix, not to mention all the materials used for making the nesting box and the enclosure. The rewards are on another level, perhaps. This was the first egg – a little miracle.