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Oily Rag: Chicken week and more

Oily Rag: Chicken week and more
By Frank and Muriel Newman

It's New Zealand Chicken Week so we thought we would mention a little about chickens and eggs. Well, actually, there’s no such thing as New Zealand Chicken Week that we know of so we thought we would create one - there are weeks for all sorts of things so we thought chickens should have one also!

No doubt lots of little chickens will be hatching soon, so for those who want to venture into the world of back-yard chicken farming it's time to start thinking about how many you need and what type. There are loads of interesting breeds, and we can see why raising chickens has so many dedicated followers.

There is basically a choice between the commercial breeds such as brown shavers, or the heritage breeds. The commercial ones are the best for egg production but we like heritage breeds because they are more interesting to look at - we like Sussex in particular and think they look great foraging in the orchard.

For those with a little bit of space it may be a case of mixing things up so you get the best egg producers and those with the most interesting appearance.

As far as housing is concerned, if you are keeping only a few chickens then a moveable coop is probably all you need. It should be large enough for them to roost in at night and should include nesting boxes. It needs to be secure against pests and offer protection against the weather.

Anyone handy with a hammer and saw can make a chicken enclosure, although we have noticed some very inexpensive coops available nowadays which, given the cost of materials, makes one wonder.

Chickens are libertarians by nature and they do like to wander. We noticed ours looking through the kitchen window while we were cooking breakfast (eggs!), so confining them to an area like an orchard is ideal.

We hope we have egged you on about chickens - they are great fun to have, especially if there are children around, and the taste of freshly laid eggs makes it worth all the effort.

An oily rag reader from Northland has sent in this letter. "We read one of your columns recently that mentioned strawberries. My husband thought it was a great idea so our backyard is now a strawberry patch! He did a great job, even putting the plants in rows with plastic - just like the commercial growers. We have about 20 plants in total and they are already producing delicious berries. The kids, big and small, love them and it's now a daily pleasure to go into the strawberry patch. What is a worry though, is that I saw him reading your article about blackberries. And now I think he has his eye on our fence – it looks likely to become a blackberry patch before long!"

Busy Mum from Wellington has asked for help. "I am looking for economical dinner recipes for a family of four, that can be made in next to no time." If you have a low-cost, make-in-a-minute type recipe, please let us know.

We have received a number of emails from readers about health insurance. It seems Nib has upset a number of its policy holders (and us) by increasing premiums on some of its health insurance policies - in some cases by more than 70%. Nib is listed on the Australian sharemarket, but has been expanding into the NZ insurance market. In 2012 it bought Tower insurance and has just announced the purchase of OnePath Life.

It has also received some less favourable coverage recently when the media ran a story about a former Tower agent who cancelled his policy after Nib said they would be increasing the premium from $478 a month to $620 (up 30%). In our own case the premium increase is 75%!

To date the response from Nib has been more what one would expect from a politician - on the lines that they have "been working through the old Tower policies offering better deals to policyholders". If you too have received a nasty surprise from Nib, or have your own health insurance story to tell, please let us know.

Don’t forget to send us your tips and queries so we can share them with the oily rag community – you can do that by visiting the oily rag website ( or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.


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