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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Progress -- in a Temporary and Unplanned Direction

We have been having fox problems. At least one duck and a rooster have "disappeared" despite Tractor Guy's routine of arising well before dawn to stand/sit guard duty. At least several more "meals" have been moved off site, as both her, and I on one occasion, have chased off the predator before it got a chance to snag a bird.

Now, a serious poultry house project IS in the works -- actually more than one, as turkeys need separation from chickens and I'm sure the ducks will be happier in their own digs, as opposed to bedding down under chicken roosts. As they say, $!it does run ... and fall... down hill. 

And it is also the beginning of garden season, which means that either I need to clone myself or poultry housing will be put off a bit until the first round of crop work is done. It also means that SOMEHOW the fowl will need to be kept out of the garden.

Adding to the mix of issues, Tractor Guy has an appointment in town on Tuesday, scheduled to coincide with my work schedule to save gas. However that means that we will both be gone during the last half of the typical foxy breakfast time schedule.

We have been planning to set up the double electric deer fence around the entire perimeter of the front of the land, which will not only make it faster and easier for Tractor Guy to do his cultivation thing on Fergie, but also protect -- with one permanent run of fencing -- all of the annuals, perennials AND fruit trees. Which means that last year's baby trees -- which may not actually survive having been seriously gnawed under the snow cover by mice -- no longer need the three sided chicken wire enclosures I had built for them.

Thus, was born Tractor Guy's plan for a makeshift chicken yard to enclose the porch (under which the fowl shelter and lay).  Bonus points to the plan for keeping the fowl from roosting on -- and therefore fouling -- the steps and from defeating the chicken-exclusion fencing around the porch. Their ability to fly over or squeeze through has not allowed me to begin hardening off the early seedlings -- yet -- but once today's rain is done, I can now begin that process.

Temporary makeshift chicken run
The tree enclosures hold positions on three corners of the enclosure. Three of the tree panels, an enclosure disassembled, comprise the front face and part of the right side (out of view in this picture.)
Chicken wire is stretched between two of the tree enclosures on the left side of the new pen and one of the "chicken tents" AKA chicken tractors, made from two cattle panels covered with green plastic chicken mesh complete the right side of the pen. The door is a recycled wood framed and chicken wire covered rectangular panel from some previous project.

The fowl have access to shelter under the porch, from the left side and the right side and back of the porch support have been enclosed with green plastic chicken mesh.

As you can see, not ALL of the fowl have gone in... I counted three still at large and was hoping they would roost on the steps tonight to be captured and confined but am not sure of the plan at present, because of the rain.
Looking down from the porch into the chicken run
Looking down from the porch, you can see the tripod from which the feeder hangs -- a PVC and lashing quickie put together by Tractor Guy a few days ago. The white bleach bottles, visible in the top pic on the pew and in the lower right, above, are filled with water to help hold down the plastic tote lid which covers the hole I cut in the pew for easy access to the hens' favorite nesting place.

Hopefully, this will serve as a second line of defense against the foxes, and keep the fowl out of the garden and seedlings while their coop and larger yard is being built. The weather looks to be dry for our town trip day, so I am considering putting our Neufie, Stormy, in with the fowl while we are gone. She does not bother them. I would just let her stay out on the porch and be loose, except that I don't know what she would do when we drove away... most likely try to follow!