Over the course of four weekends, we constructed a hybrid compost bay/deep litter chook-feeding system. In the absence of naysayers, we consider it to be a world’s first.
As seen on TV, Stewart Lodge is a residential care facility for people with acquired brain injury. The garden co-ordinators, Robin and Nattie, had strict design requirements for us to meet. They wanted the Lodge chickens to have access to the bays – that way, the chooks could scratch around and feed on the kitchen scraps, all the while adding their own nitrogen-rich deposits to the mix. But the design would have to be as simple as possible, so the residents could use it. No heavy lids or complex mechanisms.
Unfortunately, these demands postponed Geoff’s longstanding desire to construct a chook-powered conveyor-belt and elevator contraption:
This sketch was better:
After a frank planning pow-wow, we settled on the perfect design. We would build the bays with tall posts and doors that hinged at the top. To give the ladies access to the veggie scraps, we’d extend the run all the way to the bays, and wrap the frame in chicken wire to prevent their escape.
We’d been collecting materials hither and thither for a couple of months. My mother’s friend Pretam is renovating her home around the corner from Stewart Lodge, and we were able to construct the bays almost entirely from material she kindly donated – her old hardwood framing timber, floorboards and even a classy wire door. Late one night we scavenged sheets of tin from a footpath in Carlton North, and motored nonchalantly down a main road with several sheets protruding savagely from the rear end of a hatchback.
And so, to the construction: together with volunteers and prodigal bush-carpenter Dale, we worked on the beast. We’d confidently predicted we’d have it done in two afternoons. It took four weekends instead, including one dawn to dusk session by Geoff and Andy under a giant tarp, while the Gods wept bitter tears.
But here is the magnificent finished product, which makes everything (almost) worthwhile (maybe).
The final afternoon, as we basked in our own self-satisfied glory, one resident approached with food scraps to feed the chickens. “Put it in the compost bays!” I suggested, and tried to explain our grand plan.
She was unconvinced. “How are the chickens going to get in there?” she said scornfully – and perceptively. She may have a point.