Monday, April 21, 2014

Hoop It Up

When we brought home our new baby chickens last month, we started looking at the hen house and pen area and decided it needed renovation. 

For one, we had torn down the old pen, which wasn't tall enough anyway. In the past, we've always dealt with escaping chickens. They would inevitably fly over at some point and end up as a chew toy in the dog yard, or running loose in the alley and the neighbors' yards. 

Completely free range chickens are the country. In town, not so much. People have this tendency to get upset when your chickens tear up their flower beds while searching for the tasty bugs under the soil. I can understand. If the chickens got into my perennial beds, I would be quite irritated. 

That always ended with out there in the middle of the night after the chickens had all settled down well on the roost. We'd juggle a flashlight and a pair of scissors while we plucked hens off the roost and trimmed their flight feathers. 

This didn't always work. We found out rather quickly that flight feathers is a relative term. Yes birds need them if they plan to fly high and long. However, they do not need them if all they plan to do is get themselves to the top of the fence so they can flutter down on the other side in the pursuit of trouble. 

So the next night would find us out there with flash light and scissors again, this time trimming tail feathers as well.

We soon discovered that determined hens don't need those either.

So as we looked at our old pen space and realized that this time, something had to be different. 

I looked at the stack of cattle panels we had leaning up (left over from our goat days) and remembered the hoop shelters we had built for the goats. 

Why not hoop a chicken pen? It seemed like a good idea.

We began our endeavor. Thankfully, we've built several hoop shelters in the past, so we have the whole setting up hoops down to an art. 

It didn't take us long. Poles pounded into the ground, panels pulled into a U shape and then hooked with bungie cords so they were easier to carry into place. The resulting hoops set between poles and then the bungie removed. A little adjustment once set to line things up and viola, we had the hoops up.

Now,  when you buy cattle panels, they are marked at 16 feet long. However, this is not always the case. Apparently the tape measures don't always work at the places that make these things. Some are shorter by almost a full foot. This made our hoops different heights and drove my OCD personality crazy. However, setting the hoops isn't necessarily easy work, so thankfully there are enough other people in my head to overrule the nitpicky one and tell her to just live with it.

After the hoops came the chicken wire. Lots of chicken wire and lots of wire zip ties. 

Our arms and hands were scraped and cut by endless chicken wire and my fingers ached from fighting with the zip ties, but we got it done.

We now have our hooped chicken pen that none of the hens can fly out of. No more trying to herd chickens home (they don't herd well), no more trimming feather in the dark, no more squawky, flappy, doggy chew toys, no more neighbors wondering why our chickens are loose again. 

No, its nothing special or fancy, but it will do the job of keeping the chickens where they are supposed to be. We plan on expanding it he rest of the way down the fence line as we can. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wow, it has certainly been a long time since I posted on this blog. A lot has happened. My writing took off and I spend large amounts of time working on that. 

We thought last summer we wanted to step away from the backyard livestock for a while and sold everything off, even the chickens. 

We realized what a mistake that was. Where we aren't going to get back into goats for the foreseeable future, we are getting chickens back and we're going to add in a couple of rabbits.

And of course, we will have our garden and our canning.