Continuing on the mammoth updating sessions I have been posting, here's tonight's: Our Chicken Fortress! It's still a work in progress and nowhere near finished yet (as you'll see), but you can see the bones of it at least.
We've never kept chickens before. The total sum of our chicken care experience is one week a few years ago house - and chicken - sitting for friends. Nonetheless, they're on my 'must have' list, and nearly everything I've read about chickens makes me want them. I even know what kind I want (I want to say 'cultivar' because I work in a nursery... what's the word if it's an animal, 'breed,' right?) Anyway, I'd like to get some Wynadottes if I can, because they're apparently quite docile, good layers etc, and pretty too (I'm not really an animal lover, I like 'em small and manageable if they're close up, anything bigger than a cat I keep at arms length).
I've been reading books on chook care, but the part that worries me the most is foxes. Most Australians will know they're an introduced pest, but the amount of environmental damage they have done to our native wildlife and agriculture is staggering. It's estimated that foxes are responsible for environmental and agricultural impacts valued at $200 million each year. $200 MILLION! (Click here for reference). Ecological impacts aside, there's nothing a fox likes better to eat than a chicken, and I've read and heard far too many stories about foxes eating urban chickens lately. Driving around our area at night we will often see foxes scurrying off into the undergrowth on the side of the road so they are very much an active presence in our area.
Anyway, bearing that in mind, we're attempting to build an impenetrable coop for our chickens. 'How to fox proof your chicken coop' was one of the most useful articles we read with regards to choosing appropriate mesh for our fortress. Although a lot of our coop (so far) has been built with recycled materials we did have to buy all the wire, and it has not been as cheap an exercise as we'd hoped, but I'm sure it will be worth it.
The coop is going in the back right hand corner of our yard. It will have a boxed in part for sleeping and egg-laying, and an enclosed open part for the chickens to roam about in when I don't want them destroying my veggie garden. As much as possible, I want to let them roam about the yard too but appreciate it's not always practical (I value my seedlings too highly!)
So, here goes: progress so far!
Chef D measuring up (note ginormous peastraw bale! It's slowly shrinking as I make inroads on the mulching). Can hardly wait until the piles of renovating rubbish can go... ahem.
Chef D cutting recycled hardwood timbers: (These timbers are part of the batch our neighbour gave us to use to say thank you for getting rid of the pine tree. The straighter ones are under our floorboards, and these were the leftovers.)
Miss SP 'helping' with the building:
Just to prove I really exist, here is a rare photo of me. I'm only putting it up because I look relatively normal in it...
This whole structure will be eventually enclosed with wire mesh. It's quite big, but we hope to keep between 4-8 hens in it at one time over the years.
And here's the beginning of the fox proofing. Don't worry, the wires go more than partway across the base! The mesh size, by the way, is 100mm squares and 2mm thick. It goes roughly 30cm past the edge of the coop (like a skirt) and we're digging it into the ground so that the chickens can still scratch around over the top. We've started putting the wire 'walls' in with a smaller mesh size but I haven't got a picture of that part yet. Probably because it was a total pain to do - literally! - as the hardwood is so hard to hammer the nails into (odd, that) and wiring the floor wire to the wall wire was much harder to do than I thought it would be and I ended up hot, bothered, scratched, and grumpy by that endeavour and I'm only halfway around so far.
So that's where our chicken coop is so far. I don't know when we'll get time to continue work on it, Chef D tells me he's working every day from now until Christmas Eve, and I have an 'active' toddler to look after who makes doing anything other than running about after her near impossible. But, since we're not back home yet, our chickens-of-the-future don't need a completed coop until next year some time (early next year, fingers crossed!)