My primary focus was on readying the chicken yard for the girls, who have begun to seem a wee bit cramped in their brooder. This is especially noticeable when they all decide it's time to give that whole flight thing a try and go racing and flapping from one end to the other. It's a little like ORD at rush hour. My hope is to move them outside full-time this coming weekend, although that plan will depend in part on just how feathered they've become and whether the weather cooperates. But this weekend it was definitely time to introduce the girls to their soon-to-be habitat, in small doses to start.
First, though, it had to be chick-proofed.
The coop resides within a quadrant of our backyard that we fenced off separately from the rest at the start of our first post-Maddy gardening season. That spring, as Maddy dug ferociously all over the backyard, Hank and I mixed concrete, sunk posts, and hung a cedar dog-ear picket fence. I had staked out that corner of the yard as a vegetable garden when we first bought the house 6 years ago. That garden project involved reclaiming a substantial amount of brick paving to demarcate beds and digging in lots of peat moss and compost to lighten the clay-ey soil. It was the only truly sunny corner, given the two towering oaks that shade the vast majority of the backyard. Someday I will write more about those oaks--they are truly majestic trees and probably deserve an entire blog of their own, that's how wonderful they are.
After the erection of the Maddy-fence, I continued to garden there for a couple of seasons, but the wonderful oaks become more so every year and what used to be a reasonably sunny patch becomes less and less so every year. It is this dynamic that has led me to shift food growing to the front of the house (more on that another day) and left the back garden, as we call, it, increasingly underutilized. But the fence is still perfectly good and dog-proof and the dappled sun and shade seemed like it might be perfect for chickens.
The fence, although dog proof and perhaps adult chicken proof, is decidedly not chick-proof. So we hatched a plan to reinforce the perimeter with what is essentially a baby gate for chicks. Sunday morning, Hank and I braved the 90 degree temps, staple gun in hand, and tacked chicken wire to the wooden fencing. Where there was no wooden fencing we used a system I have used for vegetable trellises for many years: metal fenceposts and wire mesh. It's not without its aesthetic compromises, although I have to confess I'm a fan of the functional agrarian look. Galvanized trough, anyone?
The current baby-proof yard is only about half the entire back garden space. I'm still growing herbs, kale, chard, peppers and cukes in the remainder of the space and will eventually let the hens range through the whole thing (and probably eat quite a lot of produce in the bargain). But for now, they're limited to the lower part of the garden. And this is how it looks:
|isn't the sanded and repainted bench (another project from the weekend) lovely, too?|
|Gertie, Sadie, Rosie, Hattie and Millie|