Thwarting Chickens

Late yesterday afternoon, 4 or 5 of the hens who had remained penned until a stop scratching up my gardens solutions was decided, had Houdinied there way out of the small temporary pen. I grabbed the roll of bird netting and a fistful of fiberglass poles and headed to the walled garden to at least temporarily stop them. As I was covering part, a persistent Olive Egger was trying to dig up my parsley and oregano. She was chased off and more netting was spread over the edges near the stone wall where they were hopping in. I fully expected to find one or more of them tangled in the fine plastic mesh when it was time to secure them for the night. It is not a solution I care for. The mesh is nearly invisible, but as plants grow, they will get tangled in it which will damage the plants when I try to remove it and will leave bits of plastic in my garden, neither of which I want. I foiled the deer from eating my rose by putting a tomato cage tines up, but that is a hazard in itself and I don’t want tomato cages all over the garden either. Until the bed it full of plants and flowers, it will continue to be a problem as long as I raise chickens.

Once they were secured for the night, it was the littles turn to be locked in. They had other ideas, most of them still exploring the pen and the under side of the coop. I sat in the hay and watched them for about 20 minutes as they explored their surroundings and me sitting in their midst.

What, you want us to coop up? Not ready yet.

I wish this was a better photo, with two of the black Marans with their black feathered legs. Such pretty birds and I can’t wait for their dark chocolate colored eggs.

They are persistent, stubborn, and inovative about getting what they want and trying to put them in a pen or coop before they are ready is akin to herding cats. Maybe I should teach the German Shepherd to herd chickens.

Dreary afternoon

This week has been unseasonably cool and windy and this afternoon an added cold rain. We even had frost warning two nights with temperatures dropping below freezing, but the garden survived just fine.

This week is supposed to flip to summer like temperatures by midweek. The fickleness of spring in Virginia.

After holding the older hens in the Palace for two weeks, I started giving them all day free range and with 30 acres to explore, they chose to scratch and dig right around the pullets pen, digging holes that the pullets can manage to squeeze through to the outside world. Yesterday the hens discovered the walled garden I worked on all last summer. After building up the wall, cardboard or weed blocking fabric was put down and bagged soil added on top. Culinary herbs were planted in part and various medicinal herbs and perennials beginning to fill the other areas. When I looked out at dinner prep time, they had dug up two of the newly planted daffodil clusters and a comfrey plant, scratched soil over the oregano and parsley. Now I have to try to figure out how to keep them out of that area without destroying the appearance of the bed. I had to put bird net over the bed along the south wall of the garage to deter them from digging up flower seedlings and to stop the deer from eating the daylilies. I am hesitant to use the bird netting on that garden because the bird feeders are on the wall that juts out into it and I don’t want the song birds to get tangled in it. Since that netting is black and fairly fine, maybe I can erect a 2 foot band around just inside the stone wall to deter the hens. This morning, I found a bunny about to make it’s way in as well.

This one was run off before it could navigate the rocks and find a feast. Because of the damage yesterday and the rain today, they are penned in. I will figure out a solution tomorrow. I have considered controlled free ranging with a roll of electric netting that can be moved to various areas to provide fresh forage without causing the damage. As far as the pullet’s pen, I think I will fill the holes with soil and put a row of rocks around the outside that can protect the fence line from digging and can still be cut with the line trimmer.

The chilly week has given me time to relearn how to do Tunisian Crochet. The leftover yarns from making my blanket squares are being used as I make a 6″ wide strip. As more is spun, more strips will be crocheted and stitched on to this strip to make a table cover for my craft display table.

This strip will be blocked to uniform width as soon as it reaches the length that I am seeking.

We missed our walk today, hope tomorrow will be warmer and dryer.

The birds are still singing

We had snow flurries off and on all day yesterday, no accumulation while the temperature fell to 31 f last night. We took our daily walk bundled against the chill and frigid gusty wind brought in by the front.

The littles didn’t get to go outside yesterday. When it warms a bit more outside, I will let them out and add more straw to their coop. I tried to add some yesterday, but it just spooked them too much. It is going to stay chilled today, but no rain or snow, and another freezing night before the shift back to spring time.

I haven’t seen any more hummingbirds. I am looking forward to the return of more as they flit in an out under the porch overhang, sipping the nectar from the feeders and chasing each other off.

When we stopped at the grocer a couple days ago, they had geraniums in hanging pots, BOGO. Though I want to put them in pots on the deck and not hanging, I purchased two, but put them in the utility room until the freezing nights pass and the warmer weather returns. For years I have tried to get poppies growing from seed, always unsuccessfully, and there were pots of poppies at the grocer as well. One of them had to come home with me too and it was planted in the walled garden and covered with a flower pot last night to protect it from the frost. I have added 5 plantings of perennials to that garden so far this year. The Iris are beginning to show flags, I hope the cold didn’t destroy the first flowers. As the season goes on, more perennials will be added to that bed, I want it to be full of flowers. There is a patch where Calendula was planted and it usually self sows. If none comes up there, I saved seed from last year. The Zinneas, Marigolds, and Calendula along the south stone of the garage are up in that bed, but keeping the chickens out of it until the plants are large enough has become a challenge.

The plants that overwinter in the house are ready to be back out in the sunshine and rain baths, but the nights have to be more consistently warm for that to happen. I don’t want to have to keep shifting them in and out.

A new umbrella for the back deck table is on my wish list so I can sit out there once the sun is too hot to enjoy being there and as an outdoor eating spot in late spring, summer, and early fall.

We will walk again today, bundled against the chill and look forward to the next few days as warmth returns.