FENCE!!!!

It’s here!  The Fence is HERE!!!!!!

*Ahem*  Let me start again.

Since Fall, there’s been a lot of talk on this blog about the need for a means of keeping my free range chickens away from the road which runs through our property.  It’s a main road, though in a rural area, and people drive on it and they drive fast.  Since December, I’ve lost three hens to the road (and one to a predator) and it was heart-breaking.

Dad, DH and I began began tossing around ideas, which included chicken tractors, installing underground fencing and little ‘collars’ for the chickens (like invisible fencing for dogs) and … the fence I wanted the whole time but no one else thought the feasible until we lost three of our girls to the road.

Then it became feasible.  After it cost the lives of Ava, Madison and Dottie.

We started by discussing things like ‘how high’ and ‘how to build gates they can’t go through.’  Then DH started figuring up how much the materials would cost.  It would have to wait until 1) we got our income tax return and 2) the spring thaw came.

Both have come… and so has my long-awaited fence.  Would you care for a tour?

I’ll be honest, I will miss the free range.  It was nice to look out of the windows and see them all wandering about, but I refuse to lose any more of them to the road and their own disregard for it.  They might not know any better, but I do!  They will still have plenty of room to move around and a lot to explore, a water source, shelter (there is a bush, plus DH promised to make little lean-to’s so they can get shade and safety) and access to their run, coop and favorite dirt bathing areas.

They just won’t be able to cross the road.

The fence won’t protect them from most other predators.  Just the road, really, but I’m fine with that.  If I want them to wander and get the good bugs/grass/etc, then I have to make some exceptions.  I’m fine with that, too.

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So are they, really.  This fence means no more being locked into the run ‘for their own good’ and a vast expanse of new green stuff to nibble.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Weekend, The A-Versaries, and Update on The Fence

To everyone who celebrates – have a Happy and Blessed Easter Weekend.   We’ll be spending ours having an Easter Egg hunt on the farm for the kids (mine and some of my nieces and nephews) and a dinner in the early part of the evening.  I don’t know if all the prep for that will be conductive to us going to church, but if we do, our church has a sunrise service every Easter.

And I may make scrambled eggs for the spoiled birds, because they love it so much.

Speaking of spoiled birds… yesterday marked the Australorps and Orpingtons 3rd week in our care.

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Week 3 – We’re looking scruffy, too!

IF you click on the image above and look real closely, it looks like I’ve got 4 baby roos and 2 little hennies out of both groups.  I could be wrong (hopefully I AM) but some of those combs look very pronounced.  Some of them certainly act like roos.  They rush each other and chest butt each other.  Yeah, there’s roos in this brooder bunch.  I’m just hoping there’s hennies as well.

Across the way in the coop, Pip turned 17 Weeks today.

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For comparison’s sake, here he is as a day-old chick we dubbed ‘Pip the Cute & Fluffy.’  He’s still a cutie, but not so much with the fluffy anymore.

These days, Pip spends a lot of time in the coop, either in the window or in the roosts.  When he ventures outside, his papa (Dots, our rooster), chases him away mostly with a look and a growl.  They have not butted heads yet (or claws/beaks) but Dots is definitely establishing some kind of New World Order for Pip to follow.

No eating where we eat.

No bothering my hens.

And you can only roost with us at night if you sleep next to your Momma.

*sigh*  Yes, the only time Pip sleeps on the roosts (as opposed to the window ledge) is when he sleeps next to Abby.  She still tolerates him at night.  Abby is a good momma.

Pip,however, is finding it difficult to follow all of his Papa’s rules.  He’s developed a bit of a crush/fixation on one of the hens.

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This little lady is Riley. She’s the girl that Pip is infatuated with.

He’s made several attempts in the last couple of weeks to mate with her.

They are clumsy, awkward attempts that involve chasing and the pulling of feathers.

She bit him last week after one said attempt.  He sulked.

This morning I witnessed him actually make it on top of her, only to wobbly off before something could happen.  Mostly because, instead of crouching to submit, Riley stood up and Pip lost his balance.  Riley is, actually, one of my bigger hens.  I haven’t weighed her with a scale, but I pick up as many of my birds as I can every day, and she definitely feels heavier than most in my arms.  At any rate, she’s bigger than him by a long shot.

So Riley stands up, Pip loses his balance and rolls off over the top of her head.

I laughed, because what else can you do?  She didn’t bite him this time, but honestly, look at that face?  Is that the face of a happily woo’ed woman?

Finally… The Fence Is Happening!!!!

It’s spring, the ground is thawed enough and our income tax money is ours to spend.  DH started the fence last week with material we already have, and picked up the rest of it today.  Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer and my little birds can roam free without me fearing their lives to the road.  Squashed, mangled bodies and bloody feathers floating on the wind is nothing I want to live through AGAIN.

Of course, The Fence means no more ‘free range chickens.’  I’ll have to start calling them ‘pasture raised’ or ‘pasture fed’ or something with a pasture in the name… but that’s a small price to pay to keep them all relatively safe.

 

Cleaning Up to Get Dirty

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that when it snows, I have been luring my chickens out of the run by sprinkling the run with straw so they have something to walk on.  It’s a trick another chicken own suggested because her birds don’t like cold toes either.

Well, the result is… a LOT of straw and other crap in the run, and with Spring approaching… it’s messy.

Also, since the birds will be using the run until The Fence is built, I had yet another chicken project in mind… making them a decent make-shift dirt bathing area.

Which, since it’s supposed to be in the mid-high 60’s this week… I decided to do:image image

I took a rake, shovel and pitchfork and raked all the straw, rocks and general debris into a big pile for removal.  As you can see, the chickens are nosy little kids and had to check it out.  While I was getting the wheel barrow into place, they decided to ‘help’ but scratching in it and spreading it out.

More raking for Momma.  Thanks kids.

 

Here they are investigating the cleaned out area in one corner.  There was baby grass growing up under all that straw, and hopefully, some bugs!

 

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Next, I took rocks and broken cinder blocks to make a loose border around the area I want to use.

Again, the chickens investigate.  There was lots of bucking and scratching.

While they did that, I moved onto the next stage….

… filling the wheel barrow with dirt.  This dirt is from a pile of dirt/straw/crap that was left on the back barn steps last year.  It’s been sitting there decomposing and stuff for ages before that, and all summer long, the chickens slowly pecked and scratched at it and spread it all over the steps.

Because chickens like piles of crap, apparently.

And since I already I know they like this particular pile of crap, I decided to use it, filled the wheel barrow, and dumped it in.

You should be prepared for this part — the investigation of the dirt.

I added another wheel barrow of old ash from our wood stove (weeks old, not recent, so not hot or anything) because I read somewhere that we could make our own dirt bathing dirt by mixing ash with dirt and diatomaceous earth.  I spread it all out and mixed it in with the rake, and then sprinkled some scratch on it to further encourage them to work it all in.

I might pick up a couple of bags of DE later on, but for now, it looks pretty good.

I’ll report back the first time I see them dirt bathing in it.

 

ETA:  I think they approve!!!

Spring Chicken Projects

Tomorrow is March 1st, and I have Spring on the brain… spring flowers, spring chicks, spring projects…

Yes, I said spring chicks.  Our local Tractor Supply will have chicks in starting this week and I intend to go and take a look … and see what they have.   I know, I know… I said I would much rather let one of my hens go broody and raise chicks than raise them in the brooder and have another painful integration process.  BUT… I want to get a few more of the gold sexlink chicks, if they have them.  And now that I know what we’re looking for, I hope to get little hens.  So…  we’re thinking 6 -10 chicks, no more, and then if Abby (or anyone else) goes broody over the spring/summer, they can do their thing, too.

But ‘new chicks’ leads me to our first spring project — a revamp of the dreaded brooder box. This is our brooder box.

Dad built it a few years ago to raise pheasants in.  It had a wire bottom and … I’m not sure what he used to keep them in, because it didn’t have a top.

Last year, DH stapled that square wire over half of it, and we covered it with boards and a sheet of window glass to keep the chicks in and predators out.  He also replaced the wire bottom with plywood.  It was a pain in the ass, and very make-shift.

This year, I’ve asked for an actual door that opens and closes on hinges.  Two of them, in all honesty. One on each side of the middle beam (you see there).  This, so I can open each side and have better access to the chicks, and for cleaning.

I spent part of yesterday cleaning it out and vacuuming with the shop vac.  DH framed it up and started the lids, but then we ran out of hinges and latches, so it was off to Lowes.

He’s at work to day, so not finished yet, but I took the time to scrub the sides and bottom with white vinegar.  It has time to dry and air out.  I’m hoping we’ll be finished soon.

The Fence is our other on-going chicken project.  The ground is still too solid to put up the fence, but we’re prepping by mapping out where we want it to go and discussing things like ‘how tall’ and ‘where will the dirt bathing area go.’  With the talk of new chicks, Dad had the idea to divide the run so that the new Littles can use the run and not get attacked by the Big Girls.  I’ve also put in a request for ‘shade tents’ so that they have little places to go and hide from the sun.  I’m thinking a triangular design, something light-weight that I can move around, but won’t blow away (hopefully).  This because, once the fence goes up, we’ll be taking away some of their favorite shadey areas out front of the barn.  Like the grain silo, or under DH’s truck… or My Girl’s car, which they have also been using as a place to dirt bath.  They are sooo going to hate the Fence.

My last Chicken Project (also on-going) is Chicken Fodder.  I mentioned it a few weeks ago.  I’ve started soaking the seeds today, and I’ll have a post next week sometime, to show you all how it went.  Wish me luck!

Lastly… here’s Pip’s Week 13 pic.

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Pip & Little Dude hamming it up together.

EtA: Wordpess just told me… this is my 100th post on this blog. Yay!!!