Jailbirds on Parole

Well… I “chickened” out on the electric fence idea for our current inmates. I was all set to install a fido-shock wire around the coop and part of the yard, but when I went out to implement it on Saturday, I found the hens (on reprieve) happily playing in the tall laurel hedges that I was about to bar them from forever… and I just couldn’t do it. They were pecking around on the other side of the supposed wire fence (which I still don’t know how they are getting through), but they were also close to the only opening I had seen them use to the front yard (which I had blocked with hardware cloth after their most recent escape), and they seemed to have no intentions or employed any malicious methods to get through it.

Behind the hedges on all other sides are tall walls and sturdy fences from our adjoining neighbors yards, so I’m not really worried about them getting through those… at least not yet.

So I strung up some bird netting above the hardware cloth area, as well as over both gates, and the only low spot in one of our neighbors back fences for good measure, and put the hens on parole for good behavior for the rest of the weekend. They were very good girls, so now they are going to be able to free-range during the weekdays again, barring any future attempts to leave the country backyard. But I’m going to keep the electric fence as a backup plan… both for any more trouble from them, as well as from our not-so-friendly neighborhood raccoons in the Spring. And I’m also thinking up new ideas for my husband’s dream of a chicken-free patio. Thanks to everyone for sharing your kind, thoughtful and wise advice and experience!

chickens-on-parole

coop building : part 2 : framing

My sweet Papa has been working hard all week on building our coop, and it’s continuing to look amazing and progress quickly. The base was finished on Wednesday. And here’s the exterior framing work (basically finished) from the last 2 days:

Thursday:

exterior-framing

Friday:

kids-coop-framed

All I’ve really done (after working all day) has been some staining. But that’s about my skill level when it comes to building anyway: painting, staining, maybe an occasional nail hammering or screw drilling. I have to put in a plug here for the stain we’ve been using. It’s called Vermont Natural Coatings Exterior Penetrating Wood Stain and it’s a Top Green Building product, non-toxic, no odor, dries super fast, and it looks and works great! We are using the “Lakeside Cedar” color and I think it makes the white wood studs match the cedar base fairly well:

stained-board

We’re trying to pre-stain the lumber as much as possible, both to get all of the edges, and because it’s easier than doing the tall areas once it’s built. The kids have even helped with some staining:

mae-staining

The girls definitely still want to be involved too, and don’t mind walking on the hardware cloth now.

frances-coop-floor

I’m hoping this is becoming a bonding experience between the new girls and Gloria. It seems like she wants to be with them, but she’s still quite bossy, so they don’t let her get very close…. but maybe at little closer each day? I think their down to about 4′ of comfortable personal space. Perhaps this photo is a good sign of peaceful days to come?

all-hens-coop

The Villains Return

The other morning, we had a surprise visit from our fiendish neighborhood raccoons, whom we haven’t seen since last summer, when they heartlessly pulled one of our pullets out of a ventilation hole in the coop during the night and devoured her, then made a return appearance about a month later in the early morning to try to make another meal out of our remaining hens. Luckily, during their second attempt I was awake, heard the commotion and was able to scare them away, foiling their evil plot.

We hadn’t seen them in our yard since, but who knows if they have been prowling around at night. Probably. But we had given our coop a better predator proofing after the first attack, so the girls have been well defended during the night.

Despite our hopes that we had seen the last of these monsters, it seems this is not the case. On the morning in question, I had let the girls out at dawn, after they had started their usual begging for release, and gone back to bed, hoping for a bit more sleep, especially since I was fighting the flu. But shortly thereafter, I heard loud, quick squawking accompanied by wing flapping, and I knew something was wrong. I raced to the window and saw a raccoon chasing Gloria across the yard. I promptly started yelling at it, then hurried outside to try to stop it. When it saw me, it did indeed stop, but just stood its ground and stared me down. I grabbed the nearest weapon I could find, a spray bottle full of water, and threw it at the beast. I missed by a couple of feet, but managed to scare it back into the bushes. Meanwhile, Gloria had run over and slipped into the garage behind me to hide.

During this battle, Cleo was nowhere in sight, so I went to check on her. She was up in the coop, probably trying to lay her morning egg, but she came down at my approach, and started squawking up at the fence. I looked up to see the raccoon (or it’s companion) in our neighbor’s tree watching us. So I locked Cleo back in the coop, and went to get Gloria to do the same, planning to keep them in there until we were sure the danger was gone.

Gloria had found a good hiding place in the garage, and was reluctant to come out, so it took some time for Jonah & I (of course the action had woken him up as well) to find her and coax her out with a handful of oats. But once she was brave enough to venture out, she was grateful for the oats, so I then scooped her up and took her to the coop as well.

I really hope we’ve seen the last of these mongrels, or that at least we won’t have to battle them again for quite awhile, but in the meantime, I think I’ll wait to let the girls out in the morning until the sun has fully risen. Hopefully by that time, the villains will have gone back to their secret lair for the day.

backyard chicken in coop

poor traumatized Gloria

Happy Belated Birthday to my Chickens

In all of the excitement of Mae’s birthday, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the birthday (or should I say hatching day?) of my hens on May 9th. Just over a year ago, they were hatched at my kids’ school as a science project, and on probably the biggest whim of our lives, we brought them home for Mae’s birthday 2 days later.

They were the best, most fun, educational, exciting and life-changing birthday present she had ever been given, and the last year has been a really amazing adventure for all of our family as we’ve raised them, enjoyed them, and learned from them.

Many of my readers may not have had the chance to go back to the beginning of my blog to follow our adventures from the start, so I wanted to present the opportunity: if you are interested, if you have nothing better to do this weekend (Hah!), if you are new to chicken keeping or considering embarking on this adventure yourself (perhaps you can learn something from our experiences), or if you just want to watch a lot of cute videos of baby chicks (I was a bit video-happy back then), this is where our story began, and you can click the “next” buttons at the top of the page to read the posts chronologically:

https://vuchickens.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/birthday-chickens-2-days-old/

Happy Birthday Cleo & Gloria!!! You have enriched our lives with your presence, and our meals with your incredibly rich and delicious free-range eggs, and we are so very glad you came into this world and into our home!

chicken eggs hatching

chicken eggs hatching