Our hens spend a lot of time roaming around our yard in the summer, and the little plants that pop up in the vegetable garden are very tempting treats. Stern warnings and pleading has not deterred those little eating machines, so some sort of physical barrier was in order.
I found some rolls of page wire in our woods a few years ago and dug them out last month. There were four sections, all basically sunk into to the the ground and firmly attached with tree roots. My best guess is that the original fence was built some time in the 1930s and could have been taken down after the 1960 West Prince Forest Fire when what had been farm fields was allowed to grow up into the forest that surrounds us now. The wire is old and rusty, kind of brittle, but good enough for what I need. It was easy to find enough small spruce trees that had blown over in the woods to make the fence posts and so I’m now putting my rickety fence together.
The person who rolled up each length of fence made sure that it was well secured, the ends wound around to hold the roll together. I wonder who took the fence down and what they thought would happen to the page wire? I wonder what they would make of using page wire to keep hens out of a vegetable garden (I know the answer: it’s a dumb idea because chickens can go through page wire, which is really meant for cows and horses…I have a plan, though!).
The hooks all broke as I straightened them, but the fence is good enough, and I’m happy the wire is being used after decades of sitting and waiting for me to find a use for it.
Last week I found out just how much chickens LOVE hostas. For some reason they ignored them for the past four years, but this year have been nibbling the new shoots to the ground. I now have various pieces of chicken wire propped around what remains of the poor plants and will hope for the best.
Today while I was weeding and edging a flowerbed, older hens Anni-Frid and Agnetha stood by as ususal to eat any worms or insects I uncovered, but they also plucked the annoying black flies that encircled my head. I guess a few flat hostas in exchange for pest control is sort of worth it. Sort of.
All the cats I have known who have lived into their teens have developed sensitive stomachs (a delicate way to say they become barfy). I can confirm that elevating their food bowls somehow lessens this barfiness. I don’t know why this works, but it does, and is highly recommended by both humans and felines.
Also elevated this morning was a head of lettuce, a rare treat for our free-range hens who really are fed up with being cooped up.
In the spirit of elevated dining, I plan to eat my lunch on the roof.
All four of our hens are laying eggs now. The two new red pullets, Clemmie and Prue, took a while to get going, and their eggs are still small, but things are usually running like clockwork.
One day last week, Clemmie took off when Steven opened the run in the morning and ran to the house. I later only found three eggs in the two nesting boxes in the coop. I had seen Clemmie and Prue checking out the spirea next to our deck the day before, so I had a look there and found a beautiful little brown egg in a sweet little hole Clemmie had made in the soil.
This dash-and-drop went on for a few mornings, so yesterday I threw together a rustic/junky/steampunky outdoor nesting box. The wood came from our old shop floor, which the builders said I should burn but which I have recycled into many garden and chicken projects so far. The roof is the drain pan that used to sit under our ancient water pump for our cottage. The drain pipe had rusted out and left a little hole, so I dug into our bag of recycling and found the snazzy lid from a can of ADL/Dairy Isle evaporated milk (what my 96-year-old mother uses to make fudge, which she did for the Tyne Valley Oyster Festival canteen last week!). Nails and roofing screws were picked up by me from when our house was being built in 2002 and reroofed in 2015. Caulking leftover from repairing our shop siding.
Total cost = $0. And this morning, there was no 5:30 buck-buck-bucking from Clemmie, and she instead left her brown egg in her new box. The chicken books all say “One nesting box is enough for every four hens,” but Clemmie hasn’t gotten to that chapter in her handbook. Or she read the version with the footnote “*except when it isn’t.”
We got two new hens at the end of May, red ready-to-lay pullets. The two older hens welcomed them with lots of squawking and some feather pulling, but they are slowly getting used to each other.
On Tuesday morning, I found the first tiny egg in the dust bath the new gals had created in their section of the run, then another in the afternoon by their feeder. I decided to let the four of them run together all day on Wednesday after nearly three weeks of living next to each other.
Within a couple of hours of being together, the two new hens figured out from the older ones that the nesting boxes in the big coop are where you go when you get that feeling that you have to lay an egg. Without a handbook, wiki or support forum to consult, they figured it out, just like they did making their dust bath only minutes after leaving the cage they came home in. The older hens are still doing some chasing and yelling, but things have calmed down a lot.
Pullet eggs are about 2/3 the size of regular hens eggs. They will lay these small eggs for about a month as they grow to their full hen size.
Start small, follow your instincts, watch those with more experience, don’t be fancy, and find the right nest box. Good lessons learned from our new hens as I start a blog for the second time. I have a feeling this one might stick if I start small, so this is my pullet blog.