Our chickens (8 layers) have been free-range (unpenned) for 2 months. They’ve been wandering through the lawns and gardens pecking away at bugs, clover and whatever. We’re thankful for their diligence because we have a lot of ticks and they keep that population down somewhat. There’s still the cry of “Daddy there’s a tick on my arm” at the dinner table after the kids have been playing outside. That will probably never go away.
But now with the days getting warmer we’re getting the gardens ready for planting. It’s time to put the chickens back in their yard.
I was never happy with my original fencing, put up when babies were being born and raised and my time was even more precious than now. I threw up fencing with the thought that one day I’d have the time, energy, and inclination to improve things. That day was yesterday.
Jenna had bought 150 feet of 48 inch poultry netting (chicken fencing) the other day. I started rearranging things (I call it exterior decorating). I pulled up 5 wooden fence posts that had been in the ground since the glaciers had receded. Good for an upper body workout or a hernia. That was some tough work.
Then I used the post-hole digger to dig five holes two feet deep each. Leo (five years old) wandered by and said “You don’t get much dirt with each scoop, do you Dad?” No, son, you don’t. Especially when you’re digging through a glacial deposit.
The holes dug, I engaged Hannah (9.85 years old and a worker) to help me make a kind of farmer Quikrete (a slurry of clay, pebbles, and water) to put in the bottom of the holes to anchor them.
Then it was time to wrangle the chicken wire in place. I took care in making sure the fence posts were straight and orderly. But once the fencing got up it looked like amateur time at the goofy Joe ranch. Did I throw even more energy into making it look professional? No, sometimes goofy Joe is good enough.
Then it was time to coax the chickens into the yard. They really like being free-range. And they really don’t like being chased. Chickens are the original pinball machines. You go one way, they go another. They follow a leader. They don’t follow a leader.
Part of the area around the chicken yard is covered with last year’s 6 foot tall dried up pricker bushes, and this is where they headed (hey, they’re not fools. They’re evading a predator!).
Two hours later, covered with prickers, dust, and sweat, there are 6 chickens in the chicken yard. Where the other two went are a complete mystery, but they’ll turn up, pooping on the sidewalk and pecking at the newly-planted cauliflower.