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Chooks Earning Their Keep

By Roger Findlay, Gerogery West

For the last few months I have been buying the large hay rolls to feed our small flock of sheep. We have found that dispensing the hay by hand, as a daily ration, is the most economical way and minimises waste. Each hay roll costs sixty dollars and lasts five weeks

Our sheep enjoy eating the fresh hay but they have a habit of soiling it quickly and the new-born lambs like to lie in the hay while the adults eat. Once the hay is soiled, they become choosey and seldom eat it.

It irks me to see anything of value going to waste so I decided to introduce a routine procedure that results in benefits for our health, garden beds and my pocket.

The soiled hay is left on the ground for a few weeks so that it gets a good soaking from winter rain and makes it attractive for worms.

Not only do I like raking fallen leaves; I like raking soiled hay too. It gives me beneficial exercise, gets the heart pumping and relieves any stress. I see myself being in composting heaven!

The raked, soiled hay is placed in a large wheelbarrow and delivered to the chook pen. They are grateful and start work immediately looking for juicy worms and other tasty morsels. For such small creatures, chooks are incredibly efficient at detrimentally re-arranging prohibited garden areas and flower beds. In this case, they have been harnessed by man to convert the soiled hay into a product beneficial for the garden beds.

I let them work the soiled hay for several weeks. By then it contains a mixture of droppings and scratched-up soil. A handful feels good and you know that the time is right for more raking!

We have been most successful growing potatoes above the ground on layers of newspaper, rotted leaves and straw. Most of the potatoes were harvested a while ago but I let the chooks in the bed to find those that we’d missed. In no time they had exposed the buried treasure and prepared the bed for the next crop!

Meanwhile the cycle continues with sheep eating and soiling, worms wriggling, us raking, chooks excavating and plants growing. Perfect harmony? I think so.