White Face Black Spanish

Chickens in the Garden

There is something comforting about the various sounds that chickens make. Not the high alarm of “THERE’S A CAT!” or “I LAID AN EGG!,” but the smaller sounds as they discover a tasty slug or enjoy a satisfying dirt bath or settle in to the roost for the night. That said, my main conflict with the “girls” is that they are driven to turn over every atomic sized particle of soil if given the opportunity. The drive is strong, and it is important to keep sharply defined areas where the hens have free roam, and, where they can be BY INVITATION ONLY.

Case in point; I recently gained a small English breed hen that has remarkable escape artist skills (see post on selecting breeds). Miss Buffy could have shown the Great Houdini a trick or two in squeezing through impossible gaps and flying over tall fences with closely clipped wings. She quickly made WWI foxholes all over the back lot shortly after adjusting to the new surroundings. Her escape was possible because the old chicken run had rotted away and building the new one required multiple time consuming side projects including replacing a section of (also rotted) fence. So, during the construction of the new run, she wreaked havoc in the garden.

Miss Buffy tears it up…

Posted by Juli Hofmann on Monday, August 6, 2018

The new run is entirely enclosed; including bird wire across the top. We used the smaller 1/4 inch bird wire instead of chicken wire to enclose, because last year had a booming rat population of epic proportions. The smaller rats were entering through the 1″ wire cells to feed on downed food bits at night. The White Crowned Sparrows that migrate through our area in late winter, would boldly hop in through the open doorway during the daytime as well. A redesign was required to stop feeding the unwelcome guests, that would then linger further to eat peas (the pea PLANTS – those voracious birds never let them grow big enough to have peas), apples, tomatoes, loquats, blueberries and guavas.

A barrier dug in along the bottom edge will prevent skunks, possums and raccoons from tunneling in for an evening visit. I am changing the chicken feeder setup so that less food material will be dropped to the ground. The new enclosed roost will provide better protection from the weather and will interrupt the chicken flea life cycle (look it up – disgusting) because the droppings will never land in the soil and give the eggs a place to hatch.

For me, peace will be restored with the new pen. No one will fall into the chicken formed fox holes unsuspectingly taking the compost out in the dark. Lettuces and other tender greens will not bear the tell tale marks of a few “tastes.” Soil will be un-churned and the protective wood chip mulch will keep the moisture where it belongs. And the chickens will stay where they belong.