It’s times like these

I’ll be honest; renovating has produced so much rubbish I am almost afraid to show it. Quick, look at this cute pic of my daughter playing in our new (still unfinished and unfurnished) living room!

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Now while you are still smiling, look at this…

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YIKES! And that is just the packaging from the flat pack Ikea kitchen :-O It doesn’t include any of the old kitchen and flooring we had to dispose of. Scary, isn’t it :-/

Times like these there is only one thing to do- reuse as much as we possibly can!

And so we are experimenting with sheet mulching. This is a permaculture method of preparing garden beds where you first lay cardboard, followed by organic matter, then nitrogenous matter, then aged compost. You allow it to break down and are hopefully left with rich soil to plant into next season. We will be trying this around our fruit trees as well.

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It’s not just the garden that has benefited from what would have been recycling at best (landfill at worst). Our homeschool has been able to use quite a lot. I know, I know. Who wants to fill their home with rubbish? But just look!

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As we sort the pile we are collecting the interesting pieces to add to our art and construction area. We have all sorts of building materials now to use in play, projects, construction and science experiments.

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These fantastic ramps were used in a science lesson on slope and gravity. The cat has taken to hiding inside when the kids aren’t busy racing cars all over the board 😀

We have used large flat pieces to line the lower parts of one wall in this room to create a giant drawing board! Once it is covered it will end up in the garden for next year’s sheet mulching.

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My favourite project though has got to be this Montessori-style Multiplication Board. Yes, it is just a 10×10 grid drawn on with a Sharpie, but honestly,  my Little Mathematician is so in love with it and had no idea I had made it from ‘junk’ until I discussed this blog post with him.

Once again, you can find full instructions on how to present the Multiplication Board on InfoMontessori. Basically though, this material is used to learn times tables.

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Here is our set up  (please note, the grid should be numbered 1-10 across the top. I added this after taking the photo but you can see it in the picture above). The child chooses which times table to work on. In this case it’s 3 times as noted by the giant die. You then take 3, one time by placing 3 beads in the first column. The child counts the beads and writes the equation 3×1=3 on their paper.

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You then take 3, two times by placing 3 beads into the second column, count the beads and write the equation 3×2=6. From here you just continue across the board, using the (yellow) marker at the top to help keep track of where you are (this is where the written numbers help). Once the child reaches the end they can check their answers against a times tables chart.

We keep this material available on our maths shelf for our Little Mathematician to work on whenever he chooses. At the moment it seems to be his favourite activity and gets picked almost daily! Not bad for junk 😉

(If junk isn’t your thing, or you don’t have any cardboard going spare, you can order a traditional wooden multiplication board from A2Z Montessori).

This has been a good opportunity for us to talk as a family about junk/rubbish/landfill and the ways we can contribute to either the problem or the solution. For The Mister and I it has been the shock to set us on the path of aiming for zero waste.

Staring at the pile of cardboard we both felt so awful that we had inadvertently caused such a huge amount of rubbish. We just knew that the next logical step from our homemade/homegrown/homecooked/homeschooled lifestyle was to now begin looking at reducing the waste we produce on an everyday basis. Look forward to lots more on that topic in the future!

Are you a (striving for) zero waste home?

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Season Envy- it’s totally a thing!

I’m suffering from a serious case of season envy. In case you haven’t heard of this terrible malady, here’s the definition:

Season Envy
A serious condition whereby the sufferer lapses into a state of melancholy after reading blog posts about their favourite season, whilst being unable to experience said season themselves. Symptoms range from a mild longing to a heart-crushing envy. This condition is not to be dismissed lightly.

Ok, ok. I made it up. But it really should be a thing. Honestly,  I’m not the only one who suffers from this. Kelle from Enjoying the Small Things wrote a beautiful post describing her personal treatment for  Season Envy here (yes, I do think the condition is serious enough to warrant capitals).

Unfortunately Kelle’s remedy isn’t an option for me because it is Spring in the Southern Hemisphere. ALL.OVER.IT You wouldn’t know from all the Autumn (Fall) posts on the internet, but it is totally true. Half the world is experiencing Spring. Crazy!

If all the baby birds and buzzing bees haven’t tipped you off, Spring is a pretty busy time in the natural world. Gardens included. I’m miles behind in my planting but here is what we have been up to so far…

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We’ve experimented, less than succesfully, with growing tomatoes and capsicums in our DIY seedling tray. So far only one baby tomato plant has appeared. I’ll keep you posted on the fate of our remaining seeds.

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The warmer weather has been hard on our lettuce. The cos went to seed so we have had our first go at seed saving. I managed to get enough seeds that I can swap some with a friend. Confession: I am ridiculously excited about this step towards sustainable gardening. The iceberg lettuce wasn’t so fortunate however. We lost 3 plants to rot after a large storm. Another plant is about to bolt. What we did manage to harvest was DELICIOUS. Seriously,  iceberg has no business being so flavourful! I’ll try growing some more in a cooler spot. We NEED to have it in our chicken sandwiches 😉

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In all of the excitement of moving into our new kitchen, a bag of potatoes got forgotten at the back of the cupboard and decided to sprout themselves. If you have potatoes that have done this,  don’t throw them out! Dig some shallow trenches  and pop them in. Next season you will have LOTS of yummy taters to dig up. Growing potatoes is particularly useful for breaking up hard ground and they are one of the easiest vegies to grow.

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Zucchini seeds have gone in…

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As well as beans…

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And cucumbers!

The beans and cucumbers are big enough to stake now,  so I’ll have to get a wriggle on in the trellis-making department this week. There is also a large patch of ground to clear so we can get the beetroot and pumpkins in.  And we need to take another crack at germinating our tomatoes and capsicums.

Meanwhile the garden is still giving us lots of leeks, rainbow carrots and WAY TOO MUCH KALE. We’ve got a few varieties of onions and some radishes well on their way, and I spotted a small sweet potato last week. We aren’t done eating the potatoes we harvested from Winter either!

Spring is definitely busy…and I guess that is helping my Season Envy.  Just a little.

Do you suffer from Season Envy?

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Chickens: the ultimate recyclers

Alternatively titled: Reasons you should keep a chook or ten

Chickens eat your scraps.  All of them. They don’t care what it is. Just don’t give them avocado or the other things on this list. There will be no such thing as throwing away food if you have half a dozen chickens in your backyard.

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They turn your scraps into nitrogen-rich fertiliser. It’s pretty potent poo so I’d recommend putting it into your compost to break down rather than straight onto your garden. If you’re using paper or straw for bedding you can put that into your compost at the same time.

Chooks will weed your garden for you. Let them out into the garden and pull up a chair. Enjoy a quiet afternoon in the sun with one eye on the hens to make sure they don’t eat anything you don’t want them to (that is anything you want to end up on your plate). Your feathered friends will scratch at the topsoil, loosening it and removing (eating) the weeds, saving you the time and energy of doing it yourself. They may even deposit some of that lovely fertiliser directly onto your garden for you 😉

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Sunshine weeding the garden

All of that eating and sunshine will give you lots of delicious eggs! Of course this saves you loads of money because freerange eggs are expensive. So technically your scraps and weeds just turned into money. You’ve also eliminated any ethical issues with eating eggs because you KNOW your hens are happy and healthy.

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Different breeds of chicken lay different sized and coloured eggs. Farm a rainbow

Even the shells aren’t waste! Crush them and use them. You can put them on the garden around your seedlings to keep slugs and snails away from your plants. Better yet, feed them back to your chickens as shell grit. The shells are hard because of the calcium in them. Feeding the shells back to the chickens ensures they are getting enough calcium in their diet to KEEP laying eggs with strong shells. The rough texture of the shells also helps to break up the food in their crop because they don’t have teeth to do the job. This is also why chickens eat rocks…not because they are crazy birds.

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See how helpful these birds are! They also make lovely pets. Chicken antics can keep me occupied for an unreasonable amount of time *blush* and they are easy enough for kids to look after.

Do you have other ideas for employing chickens for waste reduction in your household?

It’s not all fun and games

Today I followed a trail of blood and feathers and found my favourite chook under the car. We think she’ll live…
(Warning: images may be upsetting)

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The other day I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was puppy-proofing my fences. Well I ran out of wire and, because we have all been sick, I hadn’t got to the hardware store for more chickenwire to finish the job. This morning we heard a great kerfuffle and went out to find Erebos had once again escaped and had got himself into the chook yard. My Little Mathematician ran around, looking himself much like a chook with its head chopped off,caught the wayward pup…and then we noticed Sunshine was missing.

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She has lost all of her feathers from her neck. When the baby wakes from her nap we will head down to the produce to get some antibiotic ointment for her. She will be spending at least a few days in the cage while her skin heals to avoid the other girls pecking at the wounds.

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It took an hour to get her out from under the car as she had wedged herself in to hide. In that time I had explained to my son that I thought I would have to put her down. Once we got her out we decided it looks worse than it probably is. We sat and had some cuddles to calm her.

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Meanwhile, my Little Beastie ripped up the last of my marigolds while we were distracted. By the time she went down for her nap she was so grubby I had to change her clothes 😁 Potting more flowers has now been added to this week’s to-do list.

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We have only just taken Snow out of our quarantine container and put her back in the yard. She came down with the chicken version of a head cold last week. Who knew chickens could get so snotty?! Thanks to some home remedies shared by friends (tuna and vegemite…how Aussie haha) she recovered quickly.

The puppy is now penned until the fencing is complete.

Plotting a garden: the groundwork

So you’ve ordered your seeds and now you’re thinking, “Where the *beep* do I plant them?”

Each plant has it’s own preferred conditions, but in a suburban setting, the best place to start is with raised beds.

Hooley dooley those things are expensive! Well, they are if you but the fancy pants pre-made beds from Bunnings. But that doesn’t really sound like something we would do around here, does it 😉

Other options include old railway sleepers (if you’re in Brissy there is a place on Boundary Road in Deception Bay which sells these), recycled garden edging from the tip shop (hello Dakabin Refuse Centre) or you can do what we did and buy a truckload of used bricks. We paid $50 for our’s, but if you have the time to wait they sometimes come up for free. Just keep an eye out on Gumtree.

A truckload of used bricks makes for cheap raised beds

A truckload of used bricks makes for cheap raised beds

Pick a nice sunny spot in the garden because vegies need LOTS of sun. Against a fence or wall can be helpful to keep them protected. Mark out the ground and remove the grass. This is a perfect task for husbands to complete. Send the grass to the tip as green waste.

You could really do this yourself, but husbands like to feel useful ;-)

You could really do this yourself, but husbands like to feel useful 😉

Next step, put the kids to work. Don’t give them pocket money for this. Instead tell them that hard work builds character

If you don't have your own kids, feel free to borrow mine. He's a good worker and CHEAP TOO!

If you don’t have your own kids, feel free to borrow mine. He’s a good worker and CHEAP TOO!

My strawberries were dying in their punnets so I added some quality soil and got them planted quick smart. For the rest of the garden we got a trailer load of fill soil for free. Again, check Gumtree. Depending on how good your free soil is, you may need to add a layer of quality top soil.

Strawberries in. Coffee plants are next

Strawberries in. More soil and then coffee plants are next. Don’t worry about the lack of sun in this pic, it was taken at about 5pm

Once your garden is prepared you will want to improve the soil with manure, compost, etc. Make sure you do all this well in advance of planting to make sure the nutrients are available to your plants when they need them.

You could also try your hand at growing vegetables in pots or straw bales.

Now all you need to do is decide what goes where!

Plotting a garden: starting from seed

Winter. Cold nights, short days, gloomy weather.

Truthfully, we’re lucky enough to have relatively short, mild winters here in Queensland, and so the garden keeps growing; it’s still producing nutritious fresh food in July. Even so, Winter is traditionally the time to clean up and plan for Spring, and that’s what we’ve been busy doing. For the uninitiated, it can be daunting to plan out a food garden, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I spent so many hours figuring all this out for myself, but being the caring people person that I am (*cough cough*), I thought it may be helpful to some if I put it all into a step by step plan.

Basically you want to order your seeds, prepare your garden for planting, then get your seeds into the ground. Why seeds? Firstly, they are so much cheaper than seedlings, but there is also a much larger variety of plants available to you when you order seeds. You can go organic, you can order odd looking yet delicious heirloom varieties, you can order varieties specifically bred for your climate conditions. It’s a little more work than ducking down to Bunnings for a punnet or two, and requires a little more patience while you’re waiting for them to sprout, but is worth it in the end.

Even if you decide to go with seedlings, the first few steps are the same. You could also do a mix of seedlings and seeds. That’s the route I went for our first season to get off to a quick start, and to help stagger my harvest. For our second season I’m ordering seeds and some perennial root stock.

So here’s how to get started:

1. Decide what you want to plant

Get out a notepad and a pen. Write out a list of vegetables you eat all the time. Add to this list vegetables that you want to try. If you have chooks, you could add on vegies for them to eat (seeds are cheaper than layer mash after all, and most girls prefer to scratch up their own fresh greens). If you want to make your own sauces make sure you add on tomatoes, garlic, onion, chilli, etc. Your garden should work for your family. There is no point planting spinach if no one is going to eat it, or in leaving out spuds when you eat them every day. You get the idea.

We DO eat spinach so it has a home in the garden. We need more. LOTS MORE!

We DO eat spinach so it has a home in the garden. We need more. LOTS MORE!

2. Figure out when you need to plant

Next jump online and find out when your preferred vegetables need to go into the ground. I’m most definitely a novice gardener, so I look up what to plant and when. Make sure you get information specific to your climate, and better yet, find information specific to your area.

My top 3 picks are:

1. http://www.annettemcfarlane.com (for Australia wide info).

2. http://www.queenslandgardening.com (Queensland specific)

3. http://www.bogi.org.au (info specific to Brisbane and surrounds)

Just write a little note beside each vegetable of which season’s planting it belongs to.

3. Create a list for the upcoming season

Take your original list and cross off any plants you now know won’t grow in your climate. Ask your neighbours, your friends, your Nanna what they never have luck with and (unless you are brave and determined) cross it off. I don’t know anyone in my neck of the woods who has had much luck with cauliflower, so I won’t bother trying those until my garden is really well established and I have more experience. It would be a waste of time and money at this stage. Then sort your master list into four seasonal lists. Order your Winter seeds in Autumn, your Summer seeds in Spring, etc. This will give you plenty of time for prep work, and the tedious task of waiting on Australia Post to deliver the parcel 😉 It also gives you time to reorder or go through another supplier if your preferred variety is out of stock when you order.

Our Spring Planting List

Our Spring Planting List

4. Order your seeds

This part is fun and easy! There are lots of fabulous seed suppliers in Australia to choose from. I asked around and compiled this list of reputable suppliers:

  • Green Harvest
  • Diggers Club
  • Eden Seeds
  • The Lost Seed
  • Cornucopia Seeds
  • Phoenix Seeds
  • All Rare Herbs
  • Australian Seed
  • The Seed Collection

I went with Green Harvest as they are located quite close to me. I was told Diggers Club seeds generally tend not to do well in Queensland. Cornucopia and Phoenix are reportedly fabulous for Tassie gardeners.

(If you know of any more seed suppliers, or which to go with/avoid for certain states, please feel free to share the info)

Check off your list as you order your seeds. You may want to get some from one supplier, and others from somewhere else, and you don’t want to lose track. Have fun with this part. You know you want tomatoes for your garden, but whose to say you can’t have those glorious purple tomatoes? Or the chocolate brown capsicums? Or the purple potatoes that actually stay purple when you cook them? Or the beans that are an amazing red on the plant, but go green in your cooking pot? Told you heirloom varieties are fun!

While you’re waiting, get busy preparing your beds. More about that another time because my seed order has just arrived 🙂

Green Harvest order has arrived already

Green Harvest order has arrived already

*Caution: ordering seeds is ADDICTIVE. If you find yourself fantasising about seeds, put the seed catalogue away. Just jokes, grab that catalogue and circle EVERYTHING!

Those who can’t do, plan!

I’ve a shocker of a headache today, so rather than doing, I am planning.  Truly,  I’m a sucker for a to-do list. There is something so satisfying about ticking things off…or maybe it’s just me? Please tell me I’m not alone in loving to plan and cross off 😍

Checklist for this week/end

#1 Find out what this black spot is and treat it (organically). It’s on the underside of my lettuce leaves, and a few of my bean leaves. Any ideas, interwebbers? There are a few flies hanging around too. Not sure if that has anything to do with it or not.

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#2 Handwash all of the clothes. If you follow my facebook page you will know my machine finally gave up the ghost after 9 years of loyal service. Not too shabby for a modern front loader. I briefly toyed with the idea of not replacing it and just washing by hand, but I have been assured that modern machines are more water efficient than handwashing, and aren’t the energy suckers they were,  so I’ve ordered a new machine. It’s still a week away, so handwashing it is. I’ll confess, I cheated and took my towels to my Nana’s and had her put them through her washer for me. Wringing towels by hand is no fun, especially on cold mornings. The load of clothes is something I can easily manage though. I just soak overnight in the laundry tub to make life easier for myself.

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#3 Finish prepping my garden bed. I’ve caught the planting bug and decided I could do with a larger variety of vegetables than I’ve so far put in. At the moment we have french beans, shelling peas, cos lettuce, baby spinach, asparagus, purple carrots, leeks, sweet potato and regular potato happily growing. I have another lot of potatoes and some regular orange carrots to go in too. I’d like to add beetroot, snow peas, onions and garlic as well. My herbs are all in pots, but I think a few in the vegie patch would help deter unhelpful insects 😉

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#4 Cook up a few meals for the freezer. I had a ‘can’t be bothered’ night last night, but sadly had cleaned out the freezer. Time to put a few more meals away. For some reason my kids expect to be feed every night 😜

Checklist for the next month

#1 Write letter to school. The Little Mathematician has spilled the beans and told his teacher we have decided to give homeschooling a try, starting next term. That’s only 4 weeks of school left! I’m excited but starting to get a little nervous as well, although I really do think this will be best for the entire family. His teacher has been so kind and supportive, offering to help with the transition any way she can. That just leaves an official letter for the Principal to let him know what is happening and thank him for our wonderful experience at the school.

#2 Finalise application and plan for HEU. In my state we are required to register for homeschooling and provide them with a plan for the year ahead. We don’t have to follow the state curriculum, but do need to show an understanding of our child’s learning style, how to provide learning opportunities, and how to track progress.

#3 Buy 1 last chicken. My husband gifted me a lavender Araucana and 2 black bantam Araucanas last week, leaving room for just one more chicken in my flock.  Our council only allows 6 poultry birds on our size block *sob*. It’s a tough decision now that I have discovered the huge variety out there!

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Meet Snow, Nightshade and Dizzy

#4 Plant fruit trees. The fences are all finished so trees will now be safe from the dog. The weather has turned cool so it’s the perfect time to transplant trees, while the roots are dormant. I just need to decide on what and where. I’m thinking a lemon, an orange, an apple…I’m thinking I’m a bit boring :mrgreen:

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#5 Finishing ripping out old kitchen, plan new kitchen and order benches. We pulled up the lino the day we bought the house. We’ve now lived here for 3 months and not much progress has been made to be honest. Flooring is up, stove/oven is gone and all cupboard doors are gone. We still need to pull out the sink and benches, and remove the old pantry. I’d like to go open plan with room for a big country-style table in the middle, and a big, white double sink *le sigh*

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At this point I will settle for having a working oven again. Although it is nice to know I’m married to the kind of man who gives our’s to a mum who needed it more (ssshhhh. Don’t tell him I told). My camp stove and convection oven is more than adequate and economical, so long as no one comes over expecting a light and fluffy cake 😉

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There’s more. I know there’s more. But for the moment I am putting away my lists and I’m going to sit and savour this quiet day. My Little Beastie is sitting beside me, devouring tinned peaches with sticky fingers, while her big brother sits atop the play house reading ‘ The Wishing Chair’.

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Even with a sore head it’s a beautiful day 🌞

What a girl needs

Chicken coops suddenly got fancy. They were basically a tin shed and a wire run when I was a kid. Nowadays they have cute cottages of their own, complete with window boxes of herbs to snack on. Gorgeous for sure, but if you are spending hundreds (sometimes even THOUSANDS!) of dollars on a coop…well, they are some pretty expensive eggs you’re eating for your breakfast there missy. Really, there are only a few features that a coop can’t be without.

Your coop will need:

  1. a roost
  2. a laying box
  3. protection from the elements
  4. protection from predators
  5. dust bath
  6. easy access for cleaning and collecting egg (well, this one is for you and not the hens, but you will thank me later for including it 😉

Add some nesting material, food and water and VOILA! Hen house complete.

The roost is where the chickens will sleep. It’s just a horizontal piece of timber for the ladies to perch on. If possible, make sure you only have one level so your hens don’t fight for top position. This is where the term ‘pecking order’ comes from, and it can get nasty. Better to avoid the conflict if you can. If you are clipping your girls’ wings they will need a little ladder to be able to get up to their roost.

Roosting is natural chicken behaviour to protect themselves from predators and from germs on the ground. Because of this it’s best if you have the roost and nesting box separate. I forgot this when I gave my husband instructions for the coop. It isn’t a problem at the moment with only two chooks, and they are rather fastidious so cover their poo before sitting down to lay. We will probably need to make an alteration to the coop later when we have more chickens though. If you have the same situation, just be sure that there is adequate ventilation (we have little windows in the side of the coop at this end), and clean the poo out of the box daily.

Roost, ramp and nesting box inside the coop

Roost, ramp and nesting box inside the coop

The laying box itself just needs to be a clean area for the hens to lay their eggs. You want them laying off the ground to avoid being squashed (the chickens might eat them if this happens), to keep them safe from predators, and to keep them nice and clean. You can line their box with hay, sawdust or shredded paper for comfort. Some chook owners provide privacy curtains, but putting the box in a dark corner of the coop will satisfy the birds’ desire for privacy when laying. Make sure you clean the box out regularly. You’ll want one box for every 3-5 chickens.

The laying box is dark, private and comfortable, and off the ground where the eggs will be safe

The laying box is dark, private and comfortable, and off the ground where the eggs will be safe

Your coop should provide shade and shelter from wind and rain (and snow if you live in colder areas), so make sure there is a roof over the roost at the very least. Walls help keep out pesky sideways weather. Chicken wire will keep the girls safe from snakes and rodents. The Mister has heard a few stories of giant snakes getting into coops in our neck of the woods, so he wasn’t stingy with the wire 😉

Chicken wire keeps the girls safe, but lets them get some fresh air and sunshine

Chicken wire keeps the girls safe, but lets them get some fresh air and sunshine

A little hatch makes it easy to reach in for eggs, and to clean out the hay.

The easy-access hatch closes with a latch for safety

The easy-access hatch closes with a latch for safety

If you have a fixed coop you will need a run so the girls have room to stretch their legs and scratch around.. If you do this you will want a door large enough for you to get inside to clean. Our girls are able to free range during the day in their own yard, and we’ve gone with a movable coop. Every few days I just move it over and rake the muck left behind. A rinse with the hose every so often cleans off any stuck on poo. And boy can a chicken poo!

If you’ve never had chooks before, you may be surprised to know that they don’t clean themselves with water, they take a dust bath! It keeps their feathers clean and free of parasites. You can put a kitty litter tray of dirt in the coop if they don’t free range, or you can just make sure they have access to a nice patch of bare ground.

There is a dust bath in a corner of the chook yard, and the girls spend a lot of time here every day

There is a dust bath in a corner of the chook yard, and the girls spend a lot of time here every day

That’s it! You’re all done. There are lots of beautiful coops on the market, but personally I think cheap and cheerful is the way to go, especially if you are keeping your chickens primarily to reduce your weekly grocery bill. Get creative with your materials. The Mister knocked up our coop in a weekend using timber from the tip shop, and bits and pieces from the kitchen we are pulling out. Take a look around your yard or shed and see what you can salvage. I love the barn style doors on mine. They will look adorable when I get around to painting them. And here are a few ideas for some crafty nesting boxes that I may just have to steal myself!

I would love to see your backyard hen houses. Feel free to share your photos in the comments, as well as any tips you have for creating the perfect cheap and cheerful home for your girls x

Cluck Cluck

When my son, The Mathematician, was 2 years old, we took him to a petting zoo. It was meant to be the highlight of the kids’ Christmas Party…until he was pecked on the chest by a chicken. Now in all fairness to the hen, she had already been touched by a hundred or so children. I would’ve pecked the next person who went near me too! The Mathematician cried; We laughed (quality parenting, I’m sure you’ll agree). And from then on my son was afraid of chickens. So imagine how excited I was when he said he wanted chickens of his own!

I grew up with lots of feathery ladies around, and I still get a case of the warm ‘n’ fuzzies when I remember my old chook, Ebony. She was an adorable, FOOTLESS, black hen. She would happily sit in your lap, eat from your hand and loved to be carried around. We moved away and learned to live without hens, but they have always been on my grown-up wish list. So when we bought a house of our own, getting chickens was pretty much the first thing we did.

Step One: a fence. An absolute MUST in order to keep the chickens off the garden, and the dog off the chooks! The boys knocked up a basic fence by hammering in some stakes and tying on some dog wire.

The Mathematician and The Mister hard at work

The Mathematician and The Mister hard at work

Step Two: the coop. For this one the boys used some timber from the local tip shop for the frame and the back wall. The side walls and roof were once kitchen shelves, and the doors were kitchen cupboards. We are ripping out the old 80s kitchen so these were otherwise destined for the tip. Another kitchen shelf found a second life as a hatch at the back to get to the eggs.Chicken wire completed the house. It’s more important for a coop to be functional than fancy, but I am pretty impressed with the boys’ ingenuity for their first ever DIY building project. I’ll put up another post this week to explain exactly what features a coop really NEEDS.

Materials were foraged from the local tip shop and our tip pile

Materials were foraged from the local tip shop and our tip pile

Step Three: the chickens. Our local farmers’ market has a wonderful poultry shed. The lovely lady there gave my son the run down on chooks, and carefully chose her prettiest two hens for him.True to form, we spent the rest of the morning eating before taking our girls home.

Sunday morning at the Farmers' Market

Sunday morning at the Farmers’ Market

The girls enjoyed a quiet and comfy ride home in the cat box 😉 They have been named Sunshine and Raven. No prizes for guessing who is who! Sunshine is laying already, and we are planning to add another couple of girls to our teeny flock this weekend.

Sunshine and Raven are Isa Brown hens, a hybrid breed known to be good layers

Sunshine and Raven are Isa Brown hens, a hybrid breed known to be good layers

Do you keep chickens in the suburbs? It is probably the easiest and most reliable way to produce some of your own food, and it is a fantastic way to teach city kids where food comes from. If you are thinking about keeping hens, make sure you check your local council regulations to see how many you are allowed. On my 705sqm block I am allowed to keep 2 dogs, 2 cats, 6 poultry birds, 40 pigeons, 20 small birds (like budgies), 10 rodents and a beehive! I wonder how many of those my husband will agree to???? :p