Saturday, November 18, 2017

chickens, setup, and bed prep

One of the principles of permaculture is review and redesign as necessary.

It's been six weeks since we got the chickens and while they're a PITA to have to wake up and feed first thing in the morning, they're terribly cute, excellent garbage disposal, and destroying the grass at a wonderful rate!

My desire for chooks originally stems from Linda Woodrow's 'Permaculture Kitchen Garden' in which she keeps the chickens in the garden , preferably among the fruit trees to deal with the fruit flies and other nasties. And so, that's always really been my goal. The problem the coop that we got the chickens with hasn't exactly been very moveable. It's large and heavy (solid timber) and in spite of the wheels, it's not very moveable across uneven ground. Plus, there's wire across the bottom of the coop, so they can't actually scratch up the ground, dust bathe, or dig for worms. Very frustrating.


Also, while I let the girls just forage through the garden for a couple of weeks, my vegie garden was showing signs of exhaustion. Plus, Hainan has a habit of climbing onto a plant and basically scratching it to death. (Ever seen a chicken use a bush as a scratching pole? Seriously.) So I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to come up with a longer-term solution or I wouldn't have a veggie garden.

Cue the creation of a mobile chook pen (not coop) in which I put the girls during the day, locking them back in the coop at night so as to be safe from urban predators. (Cats, mostly, possibly dogs and urban foxes.) I've picked a spot in the shadiest corner of the garden for summer, and in winter, I'll put them either back where they started, or possibly up on the porch step, facing out into the garden. I'll decide once winter gets here - it's another six months yet!

So right now, the coop is here in the north western corner of the garden, almost right up against the house:
Chicken run

The pen, meanwhile, is in the sunniest spot in the yard, where I want to grow the productive fruiting annuals: corn, tomatoes, cucumber, etc:
Chicken run

And a wire tunnel joins the two, which I fashioned myself. I really need to refine it better (and make it neater) because the tunnel edges are kind of scratchy and they don't fit together very well. Right now, when I want to move tunnel pieces around, it's a bit of a production. The tunnel needs better modularity, and possibly some flexibility for getting across the yard...

And, of course, as always happens when wire is involved, there are war wounds...
Garden with chooks

Ultimately, I fear the wire is winning!

But the chooks seem pretty happy - the enclosed pen has some old vines I tossed over, and a plastic mat that serves as a shade against the hot midday sun. And I toss them the scraps to eat and scratch around. And they've happily dug out and mulched the area I want to plant out tomorrow! EXCELLENT!

I put them in a penned area yesterday with a few older plants, and Hainan rewarded herself by climbing the brussel sprout and trying to scratch it dead. On the other hand, they did find a few curl grubs and peck/bash hem dead. (They don't like the big ones, just the smaller ones which they can swallow whole.)

This is a picture of Hainan trying to kill the brussel sprout, while Honey digs for curl grubs:
Garden with chooks

As you can see, Hainan knows how to go about it.

We've started getting eggs - most likely from Honey. The first one was teeny tiny:
Garden with chooks

That's so small, it fits between the 2" wire gaps in the base of the coop!

Comparison with some other eggs.
Garden with chooks
Left is Honey's 1st egg, centre is an egg from a friend's home-ranged chickens who've been laying for nearly a year now, and the last is a commercial size.

She's produced nearly one every day for the last week, except for Monday. And we lost the one on Thursday, because I think she laid it while perching and then someone stepped down onto it, breaking the shell...

We eagerly await the day we discover two eggs in the coop!

Anyway, this morning, I moved the pen over, and the space beneath is pretty much ready for growing (I had to dig up some of the grass - the girls hadn't dug quite deep enough to pull out the runners):
Chooks in garden.

Tomorrow is the installation of an irrigation system, and planting/planting out day, particularly the perennials that I'm growing between the coop stations.

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