There is an area at the side of the drive which has been disused for a fair while now. As children we used to scurry under the low boughs, climb the trees and make dens and camps in the shade beneath them. However, nowadays this is just a habitat for weeds and it could – should – be put to better use.
Our last foray with chickens was a bit of a sad one, after having numerous hens for around 5 years we came home one afternoon to find them all gone; nothing was left bar feathers and one very scared (and presumably traumatised) individual hiding under the hen house. She was re-homed with a friend who had chickens and subsequently we decided not to get any new hens for a while. Now that Mr Fox has not been seen around here for a long while, and has hopefully given up, we’re going to put the land to good use as a home for some new chooks!
Not being a family that does anything by half our first job was to go out and buy some 5 foot fencing rounds, chain-link fencing and lots of fencing staples (Mr J pointed out that while we were at it, we may want to construct sentry turrets for the armed guards for our chicken version of Fort Knox). Things were going rather well, even though we had lots of roots to contend with, we managed to dig deep holes for each post and even a channel to bury the chain-link in – no foxes are going to dig under here!
The problem came when we attempted to tension the chain-link. The corner posts couldn’t keep up with the strain and so drastic actions had to be taken. Supporting posts were introduced as necessary, and the Mr P’s sheds were raided for any sort of cement or concrete we could find. These posts aren’t going to move!
Once the posts were set and the chain link was on (remind us never to work with chain link again!) we decided to put ‘Bockingham Palace’ (as it has been nicknamed) into position and
raise it up slightly. This has created a little area that the chickens will be able to get into and have a dust bath in – something our last girls loved to do with ashes from the grate! It also meant that we didn’t have to re-level the patch…
Our final job before introducing the hens was to put some sort of gate on the front. Luckily, Binty had planned this from the beginning (we were beginning to wonder about the dubious size of the gap) and produced an old metal gate that had been on the veggie patch gateway.
With a little bit of chicken-proofing this worked rather well, we even managed to mount it so that it didn’t drag along the ground! There is a little bit of concern that the girls will jump up onto the gate and so it may need to be replaced by something taller. In the mean time, it does look rather smart and will look a little less bare once the planting has been done around the edges. Binty has also put aside some large containers as weed gardens as nothing survives long in a chicken patch, so we can inject a bit of living greenery for them every now and again.
We have now installed the girls who are all looking rather pale and clean, having just come from a barn. We’re pretty sure that it won’t be long before they have dug a few craters, undermined a few posts (they’ll need heavy duty machinery for that!) and eaten every last shred of green in the patch. It is nice to have the noises of chickens in the garden again; there is nothing quite like a group of hens saying ‘hello’ when you leave for work in the morning!
We’re contemplating getting a cockerel – a big, traditional type not dissimilar to the one on the Kellogg’s cereal packet – but the neighbours have suffered enough with the building and laughter for one weekend…maybe next weekend?