Saturday, June 8, 2013

Getting closer to having chickens - borrowing the neighbour ones!

My raised garden beds have been in place a while, but production has not been as good as I expected. The zucchini plants were eaten and the are tomato seedlings the same and not produced even one tomato. The soil has dropped a bit and while one of the beds is full of nasturtions at the moment the second one hosts a slater megatropolis. I tried several ways to get rid of the beast, including hand picking them. The only way to get rid of these beasts in any sensible way was to finally get hens.

Our council allows to have poultry. There are local laws under the Health Act that makes the following specifications, in Division 4:
  1. Poultry and pigeons shall be kept overnight in a properly constructed and securely fastened enclosure. The enclosure (chicken coop) is to have a smooth concrete floor at least 50mm thick so that it can be adequately cleaned.
  2. The associated run area should be fenced to prevent poultry coming within 15 metres of any dwelling or 18 metres of any street. A free range area of 30 square metres is recommended.
  3. All enclosures within which poultry are kept shall be maintained at all times in a clean condition. At the direction of an Environmental Health Officer you must adequately clean or re-position an enclosure that does not meet adequate hygiene or structural requirements. 
  4. A combined total of not more than 12 poultry and pigeons may be kept outside the prohibited area.
  5. No roosters are permitted to be kept on any premises, but no roosters.

We are lucky as the property is neither on commercial land nor in the part of town where poultry is not allowed at all, which is closer to the centre of Perth. Our chicken coop is next to the neighbours garage, which not a dwelling, as this only applies to buildings for human habitation. Not sure why they mandate a distance to the next dwelling, probably for hygienic purposes, public health issues. We don't quite make it with that mandated distance, but there is a significant distance. The total free range area is only about 15 square metre, but if 30m3 is right for 12 chooks, that will do for the number I plan to have which is 5 at most! The guidelines need updating. To encourage people to grow food in an urban setting, the restrictions should be limited on how people can do this, as long as public health concerns are met.

After we build the fence we got the neighbour's hens over for a day. They loved it and got stuck into the slaters right away. However at night time they were reluctant to slip back through the very small gap in the fence and the neighbour was not happy for the chooks to stay over night. The part of the fance we had taken out was simply not big enough for the chicken to get through comfortably and the birds were scared to push their way back, due to the lack of motivation at the end of the day, no green grass being in sight. We chucked them back over the fence by hand the next day and the trial was abandonned

Soon the chicken are coming over for good, the hen house should be finished by tomorrow morning, the laying box is done. We already dig over the neighbours backyard to get ready for planting radishes and lettuces. Two rats jumped out of her compost scampering for shelter, a sign that the compost was much too dry anyway. We enhanced the soil with two bags of sheep and cow manure and the rain today has watered it in beautifully. Looking good, ready for seedlings!
Lemon and avocado tree in the new garden bed, but not too much shade.

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