Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Possibly the world's most ramshackle pen...

Just whipped up a new pen for the growers. When I say 'whipped up', I pretty much mean 'whipped myself' — I've got so many scratches and tears it's not funny. It all comes from trying to avoid forking out money and therefore having to cut old materials down to size.

I won't say it's a beautiful thing, but it does the job and should be pretty fox-safe. The corrugated iron fencing is in the ground about 20cm — it should be 40cm, but the fence was long built. (Fortunately my neighbours don't mind a pen right up against the fenceline. You can probably see how much they care about their fenceline given the huge overgrowth of lantana and morning glory.) Above the existing low fence are two layers of mesh (one thick animal mesh; the other chicken wire) held up by star pickets. Around all ground level perimeters inside my yard are either low brick retainers or a pegged-down mesh skirt to stop diggers. Up on top, the bird netting is against raptors as we have a few spiteful grey goshawks that happily attack adult hens.

So in the pen are now my 11 growing Light Sussex and 1 mystery bird (looks a bit of a game cross, but she's a lovely deep rich mahogany colour). Here they are stuffing their faces (literally) with some mixed oatmeal, kefir and bandsaw dust. Every few huge gulps they stand panting and adjusting to the new crop tension...

And now for the most ramshackle part, the shed:

You're probably thinking, 'How could she dare show that?' But in a weird way I'm happy to have such a lean-to structure. It cost nothing at all, except a few scratches when cutting the sheet metal. There's no timber to rot, and everything is wired to star pickets or metal rods, most of which are in the ground. I had to be cautious when wiring things together in places where chooks can reach, because chicken toes and legs are easily trapped inside wire loops left out and about. Similarly I had to tuck all free sharp ends away from the interior. As a structure it's gappy, small and dirt-floored, and will no doubt get wet during rainstorms, but it's better than the tractor tarp which is all the light sussex have had for a roof until today.

The good thing about housing growers is there's no need to be too fussy about pythons or small goannas getting in (those creatures are usually after eggs or young chicks), thus wider gauge wire mesh is generally okay. Similarly there's no need to make extra room in the shed for nestboxes. It's just a roof and some rudimentary walls.

So the total cost of this pen was $21.00, which was the price of the netting. Everything else was lying around waiting to go to the tip or hanging on nails in the toolshed. Yes, I know, it looks like it only cost $21.00! :-) But at least now the growers are close to the breeders so they can start making friends through the safety of wire. And having brooded and raised them to 9 weeks elsewhere, I've made sure I'm not going to introduce mycoplasma gallisepticum or other egg-borne illnesses to my clean flock.

So that's the last 2 days' worth of chook keeping... Now for some band aids!

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