June 14 2014

The chooks are our unexpected allies in the battle against the kikuyu. They peck at its ends, grazing on it as their preferred food when they’re let out in the mornings. There’s a noticeable difference between the grass inside and outside their run.

Their run is 50 metres of electric mesh held up by pronged stakes. It took five of us about an hour to put it up, but that involved complex arrangements with tent pegs and ropes that I doubt the original developers had ever foreseen. It’s connected to a solar powered energizer with a dead battery that only works when the sun is shining fully onto it. That seems to be enough, and the chooks mainly stay inside, running in a six-legged pack whenever they see a person (or a car, or a dog), anticipating food. They’re generally rewarded.

We’ve had the chooks for about six weeks now. They’re still growing, their wattles developing slowly, their red combs edging out of the tops of their heads. Their pecking has become fiercer and I no longer let them eat out of my hand unless I have gloves on. I let them out when I’m gardening nearby so they can scratch and hunt, picking grubs delicately out of the leafy greens, or to have any snails or grubs that I find. They have a particular cry, a startled expression of joy, that greets these treats. The first one to reach me grabs whatever she can and runs, away from the others, her rump waggling. The other two follow, and I have to call them back to show them what else I have found. At dusk I catch them and put them back in the run. They file up the ramp into their penthouse suite, wobbling on their perch for a while in a show of maturity then, I suspect, going back to the comfort of the nesting box to sleep.