More to come on this soon… (written 1/17/2009)
Ok, well, soon is a relative term…it is now March 3rd and Maya has seen fit to comment on how terribly out of date this post is (in addition to threatening to blog about the new raised bed, not that I’d mind, but she gave me a deadline, which I may have missed). Let’s wander back to mid-January for a moment and discuss the situtations that were at hand at that point in time (some of which have been resolved, some not so much).
Rats, or perhaps just one, nonetheless the evidence provided above (in addition to other evidence not available at the time of this writing in the form of a catacomb of tunnels around and about the chicken coop and compost bins) indicates the presence of a rodent. Back in January I was starting to get worried that he would undermine the foundation of the shed (there are 4 or 5 of these egresses from under the slab). Further, it seems the rat was somehow extracting stuff from the compost cones. An inspection of the exterior base of the cone below ground level revealed no entrance, and yet, there were onion skins and other such tidbits pretty regularlly strewn about the chicken yard (and not by the chickens) in addition to the catacombs. I erected a barrier between the chicken yard and the compost cones and set a load of rat traps to no avail. Keep in mind we have three cats and a dog (kind of, Hemmingway is blind and doesn’t leave the house any more and Bukowski now visits every week and a half or so, perhaps more on that later). In my opinion we shouldn’t have rodent problems, particularly since the neighbors at our southeastish corner (near the chicken yard) have the biggest most ferocious most terrible cat known to mankind. But alas, a rat we have, and as yet I have not caught and killed him, but his activity seems to have been limited by this fancy new device:
The approximately 3.5 foot tall chicken wire enclosure for the chicken yard became useless once the Skyway winds blew away the bird netting that originally covered the area. Blume (the littlest one) can basically fly whether her wing is clipped or not, and with planting season on the horizon we had to restore some modicum of order to the back yard. Coupled with the aforementioned rat issue, the gate was concieved and built (previously we accessed the chicken yard by passing through the two connected sheds at the left hand edge of the above photo, fine for us, but the situation prevented Huxley from patroling, growling, urinating and what not in that corner of the yard even when the chickens are in for the night). Prior to the gate Huxley would get really squierelly each night running around the chicken yard sniffing and barking (we assume he smelled a rat, the very same rat that continues to outwit me to this day).
Another component of the “keep Blume in the chicken yard except when we want her ranging” program was the purchase of a couple of 16ft x 54in cattle panels. The plan is to use these panels to create dual chicken yards and rotate the chickens seasonally from one yard to the next enabling us to plan stuff for ourselves and the chickens in the area from which the chickens will be excluded while they decimate the area in which they are confined. This will happen in concert with the moving and rebuilding of the chicken coop and the creation of a funky new raised bed from broken concrete and large logs. The cattle panels and the raised bed in progress are shown below:
Now really, I mean it, really, ok, so, well, hmmm…the “chicken wire” at 3.5 feet couldn’t contain Blume. So it goes, dust ourselves off and come up with an alternate plan to accomodate the adorable little flier. She’s often picked on by the bigger chickens, so a little extra effort on her behalf isn’t a problem. She is also the most human focused of the three chickens and likes to run out to greet us when we come back to the shed or follow us around the yard when she is ranging. So we spend about $100 on these cool cattle panels. Certainly 54 inches will work, the holes are large enough for her to get through, but the plan was to just cover the bottom 2/3’s with chicken wire and we should be set. No such luck. That little turd…freshly clipped wing and all she floats like a butterfly up to the top of the cattle panel shortly after we get it set up (well, ok, not so much floats and not at all like a butterfly). So, I tried adding some raspberry can arches to the top of the cattle panel to keep her in thinking the visual deterent might just be enough.
Again, my inadequecies were highlighted when Blume figured out she could pretty much knock them out of the way on her way up. So, after a bit of head scratching and various alternate plans for handling the Blume the flyer situation, I grabbed some of that cheezy green garden border wire arches stuff while walking by it at the hardware store. This sits a little bit precariously atop the chicken wire and addes another foot to the height. The test section I bought doesn’t quite cover the entire from facing length of their existing yard, but on the rare occassion that I remember to close the coop door closest to the cattle panel, the extra height seems to dissuade the littlest one from escaping. I’ll eventually pick up a couple 20ft rolls of that garbage and we’ll put it atop all the cattle panels when we get the new raise bed done and enclosed. I’m hoping to do some sort of funky pvc pipe strapped to cattle panel set ontop of a piece of rebar rammed into the ground fencing strategy for these cattle panels so we can take them down and get them out of the way when we are gardening that area and the girls aren’t ranging in that bed.
More news from way back in January…EGGS! Very shortly after solstace the girls started delivering their gifts again. Dahl was back to a steady egg a day and Blume and Cleary would usually round out the day with a second or third egg. Most of which have been dutifully recorded in our new “egg log” (which actually, has already been usurped by a “permaculture diary” that Maya bought, but way back in January it was just a plain old “egg log”. Unfortunately, the egg train slowed down a bit when Dahl (the red Arucana) decided to get broody on us a few weeks ago. We don’t have a rooster and have no intention of adding a chicken this year, so the poor girl spends most of her time sitting on a bunch of nothing. I miss seeing her in her chicken yard, even if she is an asshole bully to the other two girls on a pretty regular basis. Hopefully she’ll break brood soon and get our egg production back up to an average of around 2 a day.
And, because I just never get sick of this photo (taken by Maya), here is a mug shot of the escapee for ya: