Day Three

We had a terrific storm in the night, wind booming in the chimney, torrential rain, the works.  I had seen the forecast and battened down the hatches at dusk, even remembering to bring in the wind chimes, so everything was fine in the morning.

In fact, it was a mild, pleasant morning, not quite sunny, but cool and calm.  I got started around 930 am, after a trip to the feed store for more wire, and continued with the fence between run #4 and #3.  By lunchtime, it was done!  It’s not picture perfect exactly, but it will do the job just fine, and it’s actually sturdier than the picture implies.  I did have to take a short break about 30 minutes before finishing, as I accidentally snipped my finger when I was cutting a piece of wire.  And being inside with clean hands made me think of coffee…

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Ta-da! It looks loose, but really isn’t.

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I usually failed target practice in the military, and apparently I haven’t improved – and staple guns are a whole lot easier to use, you’d think, anyway! I kept missing the wire I was trying to staple…

After a lunch break during which I prepped the veg for the squash soup I was planning for dinner, I got going again, this time to figure out how to do the gate(s) around the pop hole so that I could control which run the birds would have access to. I was a bit stumped, so took some dropped apples out to the birds in the field to give myself a change of pace, and on the way back spotted an old gate hanging off a post near our little old chicken house out back – swamped in blackberries.  It only took a few minutes to clamber through it all and pull it off it’s hinges.  A couple of nails and some wire and it will be just fine for one of my two gates.  And it provided the pattern for how to make the other gate.  Fifteen minutes with a saw and a drill, and the second gate was done.  I had a better accuracy score with the staple gun too, when I put the wire on.

Despite saying yesterday that I would be using three gates, I’ve figured out how to do it with two. Not only that, using a rebar fence post, I found the edge of the big rock that was impeding progress yesterday, and was able to pound in a T-post in a spot that will hold one of the gates beautifully.  However, the bigger, older gate still needs to have wire put on it, because around 4pm, the rain started again, and got serious within about 20 minutes, so I decided to call it a day and go get the squash soup going.

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Just for show, it’s not attached to anything yet.

Tomorrow that gate will be finished, I will figure out how to attach them both, and the run will be ready.  I should be able to prep the lobby for them too tomorrow, and then maybe tomorrow night I can hire some family members and catch the birds in the field pens to install them in their winter quarters.

I guess because I’ve lived with the whole set up for so long, I didn’t really notice how patched together everything around here seems to be – in the photo of the gate, that plywood being held with a prop has been like that for years – the weather drives into the lobby kind of making it useless as dry shelter, so we put that board up “temporarily” and never did any more with it.  Part of the reason for that is that it has been a pain getting through the moveable fence “gates” that we’ve been using till now to get to this side of the hen house.  No more!  My new gates will change all that.  I hope.

Henny once again spent the day inside, I tossed her an apple which she accepted with enthusiasm, downy feathers wafting around her as she leapt down the perches to get to it.  She’s in for a shock when the pullets join her.

Day Two

Not such dramatic accomplishment today, but still made some progress. Day Two was all about coming to grips with the disintegrating fences in the chicken runs.  I need at least one run with intact fences that will keep flighty pullets from jumping over and into my neighbour’s garden.

Though it was on my calendar, I was so focussed on my 5 day race that I forgot that I had committed to a one hour stint at work at 9 am this morning, to do the opening routines while my boss hosted a couple of our higher up bosses for a tour of our library.  I got there a little late, but got it covered.  So I didn’t really get started on Day Two until after my coffee when I got home, about 1030.  Thus fortified, I launched into the day.

Things that got done:

1.  Decided which of the four runs to focus on this week.  I picked run #4, it already has string webbed across the run to deter eagles and the perimeter fence is in good shape.  Just need to work on the fence between #4 and #3 run.

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Run #4 on the left, standing in #3.

2.  Figured out how I’m going to close off one run and open up another around the pop hole that leads to #4, #3, and #2 runs.  The answer is 3 people sized gates, which will hang off posts at the end of each run by the hen house.  I will make the gates after the 5 day race is over (unless by some miracle I end up with spare time!).  I hit a snag with the plan around lunch time when I attempted to pound the second post in, using the pounder I borrowed from Hay Guy, and bent the post hitting a rock about a foot down.  I moved over a tad, and found the same rock – 4 times, ruining two posts. So, clearly this plan needs to be adapted a little.

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Bent post 😦

3.  Moving on, I took out all the wire on the fence between #4 and #3 that was patched, broken or holey.  This left me with a stretch near the chicken house of about 15 feet that needs to be completely re-wired.  The rest of the fence looks fine, but is very low in places.  I have decided to get a roll of 3 ft wire tomorrow to add to the top of this fence.  I also put in three T-posts on this fence line, removing the short portable electric fence posts I’d had there before.

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Post pounder on the left – it’s about 4 ft long, and weighs a LOT. Metal tube with a cap welded on. I have trouble lifting it off the post when I’m done – I feel like I’m caber tossing. I frankly think this thing could double as a battering ram.

4.  I started installing new wire.  This is high enough, and being 1″ mesh, is sturdier than the 2″ mesh I had on this fence before, but I’ll still have the issue with sagging at the top in a year or two. Long term goal is to switch to square mesh.  For the remaining fences that will have to be done over the winter, that’s what I’ll use.

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Actually got some wire up, and the brambles took a beating.

5. I got some of the brambles clipped back around the area I was working in, when trying to get posts in for the future gates, but there’s a lot more of that to do.

This was all pretty simple stuff, but took a surprising amount of time.  The rain started sporadically around 4, and at 430 I caved and had a tea break to catch up with the familys’ doings at school and work, then went and put tools away and did chores, as the rain started to get more serious.

Henny decided today that having been living wild for 3 or 4 weeks, she is content to be an indoor chicken for a bit and refused to leave her lovely clean hen house.  This could have something to do with the fact that she is clearly moulting.  Why do chickens do this just when the weather starts to turn cold and nasty?   I’ve always wondered.

Extreme Makeover, Farm edition, part 2

Progress so far:  Brambles and thistles around door removed – check.  Old bedding (2 years old) removed – check.  Wasp nests removed – um, wasp nests?

Not pictured are several other small ones along the eaves on the south side of the house, one under the shingles on the roof, and another under the peak above the door.  Fun times!

Our usual method of wasp nest eradication is with the hose on jet, around dusk – while we can still see them, and they are slow and sleepy.  So we took the jet spray to them on Thursday night.  Friday morning I thought it looked all clear, so I got going with wheelbarrow and shovel, but my similarity to a little black raincloud (see Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne) was not apparent to the wasps who’d come back, and I had to abandon the wheelbarrow.  More water treatment.  Ditto on Saturday evening and again today.  In between, we did get the old bedding out and new bedding in, and did a couple of minor repairs.

Tonight, we checked, couldn’t see any wasp activity and decided we’d move the pullets anyway.  If the wasps show up, and I’m starting to have great faith in their persistence, we’ll just have to spray them with the birds in the house.  Fortunately, the nests inside the house were not active, so after the first night, all of our spraying has been on the exterior.

Tip for moving small flighty pullets – do it after dark, when they’re dopey with sleep.  They are MUCH easier to catch this way.  The actual transfer took about 15 minutes.  I hope they like their new home.

So, next phase of the challenge?  Beat my way through the jungle of brambles on the north side of the house which will be their future run, as it has some shade, and didn’t seem to have any wasp activity over the last couple of days.

Extreme Makeover, Farm edition, part 1

Remember we got 58 layer chicks about 5 weeks ago?  They outgrew their wading pool not long after they arrived, though we bought ourselves a little time by surrounding it with wire.  Once they started hopping out of that, it was time for something bigger.  The original plan before they arrived had us processing the old flock about a week ago, doing the renovation that we’ve planned on the hen house (should take about three days – that means a week), and then putting the young pullets in there.

We decided early in July that the layers were still giving far too many eggs to do them in just yet, so we created Plan B:  we’ll keep them till mid September, process them then, which should be about the time some of them begin moulting anyway, and then we’ll still have good weather for fixing the house, and a much shorter eggless period before the new pullets start laying (I estimate that should be about the end of October).

The only problem with Plan B is that the little pullets (aka little monsters, as we call them everytime we put all the escapees back in their run), have outgrown the temporary quarters we created for them – despite efforts with wire, boards, signs, curtains (we were desperate), they have a thirst for adventure and an aptitude for flying surprisingly high.  The broilers are using the pasture pen, so it’s not an option.  We considered for a brief moment resurrecting a truly elephantine structure that we called a field pen, which we put together years ago and takes about a dozen people to move more than 2 feet…by some miracle we got it into the middle of the hay barn to store it, and then surrounded it with bikes, kayaks, hay, swimming pool paraphernalia, etc.  We looked at what we call the “little house”, rejected it quickly and after having a go at the elephant in the barn, came back to it.

The little house is about half the size of our regular hen house.  I would not normally keep more than about 25 hens in it, but the pullets are still really small (I can hold one in one hand easily).  It was built by my Dad when I was about 11 for “my” small flock of Rhode Islands (about 10 of them I think) that were meant to be my moneymaking enterprise.  It’s on skids, and technically portable, but it’s quite heavy and being about 40 years old, also a bit fragile for trips across a field, so it came to rest when we arrive here 14 years ago in a corner behind the barn.  We put up three fenced runs around it, and in our first few years of having layer flocks, this is where they lived.  We eventually built a bigger house, when we increase our flock size up to 50.   We’ve used it sporadically since, but not for about 2 years.

The little pullets need to be moved ASAP, no question about it.  So here’s plan C: We will clean out, repair and prepare the little house for the pullets this week, and have them in it before Monday.  They will also need access to outdoors, so the little shelter off the back side will have to be cleared of blackberries as well.  Within the next week we will need to clear a run for them as well, and repair any holes in the fence.  We started on Wednesday.  We have till bedtime Sunday night.  Two of the three of us are working at our “other” jobs for two of the available days.  Can we do it?  Stay tuned!