Us Aussies have a strange way with words. Take for example the word chicken. Why would you use the formal word ‘chicken’ when you can so easily call something a ‘chook’. The word chook just rolls off the tongue and fits so nicely in to our unique Australian vernacular and although I have no idea where the word chook came from nor care to know, I suspect it simply grew from the fact that us Aussies have a tendency to abbreviate anything we can.
It’s a handy word though because the word ‘chook’ has multiple uses. It can describe a chicken or hen whether it’s in the backyard or in the oven and when strung together ‘chook chook chookie’ is a language most Aussie backyard chooks relate to. Try saying ‘chicken chicken chicken’ and you will simply receive a blank stare. Running around ‘like a headless chook’ refers to someone who is over-excited or disorganised and a ‘silly old chook’ is an affectionate way to describe a funny older person. If you add an ‘ie’ on to the end making it ‘chookie’ it can also be used fondly as a nickname for a loved one as has often been the case in our household!
Anyway…I don’t know about your chooks but our young chooks are tireless egg layers and dutifully lay an egg each every day. Mind you we take good care of them and feed them well, spoiling them with scraps and greens when we can so I guess in a way they are rewarding us for our duty of care. They have a large secure pen where they spend their days while we’re at work but get to range in the Summer Palace and Banana Paw Paw Circle several times a week where they scratch for bugs, stretch their legs and shake their tail feathers.
To thank them for their contribution in our partnership and to help ward off any parasites that might be lurking, I decided that an aromatherapy treatment using a herbal concoction from our garden might be a rewarding treat.
Herbs are easy to grow and make good economical sense but there’s nothing like having fresh herbs on hand especially if you love to cook or like to make your own creams, lotions, soaps or refreshing herbal teas. Many herbs are also proven companion plants helping to ward off insects in the garden. They look beautiful and some even emit a magnificent aroma when brushed up against.
I wandered down into the garden and as I started to gather a collection of herbs it surprised me to see what a great variety of herbs we have growing and quite a few that are suitable for both human and chook aromatherapy. For their healing powers I picked calendula, comfrey, spearmint and yarrow, I threw in a bit of chamomile for it’s known relaxation properties and for rejuvenation basil, lavender, lemon balm, mint and tansy. To ward off lice and other parasites a mixture of chamomile, lavender, fennel, tansy and wormwood and as a final soothing tonic a mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!
With a daisy in my hair and a song in my heart, I sprinkled the magical herbs through the girls nesting boxes and around their perches and even on the areas where they have their daily dust baths. As I put the girls to bed I watched with interest as they quiety scratched through the freshly laid herbs, the aroma reaching into every corner of their pen.
The next morning I woke startled by the unusual quiet from the Chook Nook below. Sitting bolt upright in bed I wondered firstly whether the little chooks had been overcome by the heady aroma of my herbal concoction and I had visions of the two of them lying feet up in their beds.
I raced down to find two contented chooks calmly pecking away at a few leftovers on the floor of their pen. An unusual sight and different to the regular whinging that takes place like clockwork each morning. When I looked in their pen I could see that some of the herbs had been pecked over and one warm fresh egg lay on a bed of flattened herbs in their favourite nesting spot.
To be honest, I have no idea whether those herbs did one damn thing to calm our chooks but it certainly made me feel better and it was a relief to know that they’d survived the night with a delightful scent of fresh garden herbs swirling through their heads.
At the end of this week, Chris is retiring. It’s an exciting time for us all and one that we’ve been working towards for some time. Next time I’m going to tell you about how we’ve spent the last couple of years preparing for a sustainable retirement with a reduced footprint on planet earth.