An excursion

6 Aug

It was sunny this morning and we really wanted to get out of the house. J has been excited about the idea of chickens lately, so we thought we’d take them to a chicken farm to investigate further.

Out we drove to Barter and Sons Hatchery, which is south of Penrith in Luddenham, about an hour from home. The area was quite rural, with quite a few market stalls on the sides of the road. I always feel a bit too shy to stop, but I’m not sure why.

The hatchery is really well set up with hens of all ages, from day-old chicks to full-sized laying hens. On Saturdays they have incubated eggs on display, hatching before your eyes.

The kids had an absolute blast cuddling the little chicks and following the hens around. They had a whole heap of different varieties, including some heritage blood lines seldom seen in commercial production anymore. Kinda like heirloom veggies really, I think it’s great.

J with some young chicks

It was really good to see the progression in size between the little chicks and full size hens. They had pullets there at all stages of growth, so you could really get a good idea of how long they take to reach full size. You could also see what the different breeds looked like along the stages of development.

P is slowly coming around to the idea of getting some chickens, but we didn’t take the plunge today. We would really like to get our hens as little chicks so the kids can watch them grow. We learned today that they are actually quite fragile at that age, and need heat lamps etc to keep them warm. We were just not prepared for that, so we might go back later in the year when it’s a bit warmer. They also had the heat boxes for rent if you want to spend the money ($135 for 6 weeks).

So for anyone considering backyard chickens, I would really recommend this place. The people were friendly, the set up was great and the prices extremely reasonable. Day old chicks were $6 each and full-size hens were a bit over $15.

We even stopped at a church fete on the way home and picked up some delicious home-made nectarine jam. Gotta be happy with that!

**Update** I’ve also updated my What’s Growing page to include my seed collection.

15 Responses to “An excursion”

  1. The New Good Life August 7, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    What a lovely excursion, your kids looked like they had a wonderful time. I agree if you’re going to go down the chook road you need to be prepared for them.

    I’m like you with the road side stalls but I’m going to try and be braver in this regard. I did stop for some apples and pears in Harcourt (Victoria’s apple capital) and they were by far the best apples and pears I’ve ever had so definitely worth the stop.

    Love a bit of home made jam from a fete. I resolved a while ago never to buy jam from the supermarket again, home made is just so much better. So far I’ve made my own fig jam and lemon butter, I’ve been given quince jelly (oh so yummy) from a friend and my mum made marmalade from her oranges so I’ve got quite a stash.

  2. L August 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I’ve been thinking about the roadside stall thing, and I think that it is just a case of the fear of the unfamiliar. I’m quite happy to stop at a fast food ‘restaurant’ because I know what to expect of it, but not a roadside stall because I’m worried deep down that it will be awkward.

    Silly me!

  3. Jean August 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    We had chickens at my parents’ place ever since I can remember, and I love them, but I’m not sure they’ll eat all the green waste you think they will … Ours were surprisingly picky, and they didn’t eat a large volume anyway – a half-cup of food was plenty for two. Since ours were fed with chook pellets and grains, they would leave any green stuff behind, although they did like to peck at the grass. They did also eat insects and snails, though. And if you give them a taste of bacon, well, ours started singing, in their own chooky way 😛

    As for the poo, it was a bit of an issue when I was growing up – it was pretty much everywhere throughout the backyard where they lived, so we all had to wear thongs every time we went out there, and wipe them at the back door before taking them off. I’m not sure what to suggest here – keeping them in the coop only might work, but goes against the free-range idea. I don’t know, can chicks can be trained to ‘go’ in a certain place if you get them at the day-old stage? Some chooks are smarter than others, especially Seabrights, and that might make it easier to collect for fertiliser… Anyway, I hope you find something that works for you!

    • L August 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      That’s a good point Jean. I think I’m remembering how much our chooks processed when I was a kid. I’m failing to consider that we had 20 or so!
      I don’t plan to let them truly free range. They will get their own run, but I don’t want them in the veggie garden. I hope that will take care of the poo problem.

  4. Liz August 7, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    When I was a kid we often raised chooks from chicks, they would live in the lounge room under a light globe for a few weeks then later go outside to be fattened up for the pot – fortunately we always had so many that the pot thing never really bothered me. Weirdly though I suspect it may now though. Anyway a couple of friends of mine have raised chicks recently (for egg laying). Both bought what they thought were hens – one friends ended up with 2 hens (out of 2) the other with 6 roosters and 2 hens…..Apparently it can be difficult to tell the boys and girls apart…..

    • L August 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

      I’m pretty sure that this farm guarantees the sex of the chickens, and I’ll certainly be returning them quick smart if I end up with roosters! As children, our chickens were always retired commercial hens, so I don’t remember raising them from chicks. We did raise ducklings, but maybe they are tougher?

      I’ve been researching online, and I’m thinking it won’t be that hard to make my own brooding box.

  5. ali August 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    I was going to make a comment about chickens, but got distracted by the magnified ladybug… if that’s you reflected in its shell, I am thinking you look bizarrely not unlike a sewing machine!!!

    • L August 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

      Yeah, the reflection makes sense to me, but P can’t make it out either. I’m leaning over at a sharp angle with the camera in my hand.

  6. Mrs Bok August 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Your children are gorgeous!! Such a lovely excursion. We got ours at 8 weeks, so just old enough to be outside.
    The nectarine jam sounds divine – I love roadside stalls!

    • L August 8, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

      Thanks Mrs Bok 🙂

  7. Kate August 8, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    It sounds like a wonderful excursion. I remember getting my first hens. It was such a big decision. I really didn’t think I knew what I was doing ( even though my mother was brought up on a old fashioned poultry farm). But when I got them home I just felt that everything would be OK and it was. They settled in beautifully and I just seemed to know what to do. In my situation the most important thing was giving them a fox proof shelter.

    • L August 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

      Thanks Kate, I’m feeling more confident already. I can’t wait!

  8. genny August 12, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Hello just wanted to say that raising a couple of chicks is very easy. Dont let the idea of heat lamps scare you. We have 2 chicks 1 month old in a box in the office right now. With paper and mulch clippings in the bottom and my sons desk lamp leaning in they’re fine. Get a little water dispenser from the produce store and a chick starter food in a little container.If the kids handle them every day they will be happy to be around them. You can find great info on raising them on google. We’ve had chickens for 4 years now and we love them. We set up their run outside with an old dog kennel for their coop fully enclosed in a 2mx4m pen(wire on the roof and built from coppers logs-very cheap). We can go away for weekends and they’re safe and ok with food and water hanger. We let them out in the day and they find their way back at night and we shut them in. Dont worry just go for it!

    • L August 14, 2011 at 7:35 am #

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Genny! I’m starting to think we’ll be fine as along as we wait for the weather to warm very slightly.


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