Monday, September 24, 2012

DIY feeder from gallon milk jug

The girl's feeder had gone wet and moldy after the storm so I made them a new one. It cost me all of nothing and took 2 minutes. I cut holes in the sides of a gallon milk jug and suspended it from the roof of the run at about the level of the hen's backs. The top of the jug keeps the rain off, and rodents can't get in. Not too much gets spilled; but then they like scratching up the grain from the ground anyway.

I don't have any pictures of them eating from the new feeder because they were taking the opportunity for a bit of a graze. Katie was sticking close to Shirley, who was unperturbable as usual. Josie was even shyer. They are moulting and there are feathers all over the place in the garden.

This is how they really like to eat.
Fairly typical behaviour: (L-R) Josie and Katie looking wary, Shirley noshing.

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Sight Of The Fox

Our neighbour Marty had told that his 4 year old son Sam had seen a fox in our garden. We had no reason to think this was not true -- although evidently the abundant local rabbits could outrun him. Early this morning we saw the fox for ourselves. He had his paw through the chicken cage and had pinned Katie to the ground!

By the time I had raced down the stairs the fox was gone and Katie was back on her feet, albeit rather wobbly. Shirley had abandoned her usual calm and was clucking mightily. Marty had seen it too and came down for a chat. A few feathers had been pulled but otherwise all was back to normal.

I think the sly fox had hidden behind the kid's playhouse and jumped out and ambushed Katie. Here is a picture of Hannah and Rachel feeding the chickens yesterday morning (they take turns to "be in charge"). The fox attacked on the corner by the playhouse.

The fencing on the cage is rather widely spaced (2" wide by 4" tall) and evidently I will have to think about further security measures. Putting some denser mesh around the bottom would not hurt, for starters.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

After The Storm

The poor old chickens didn't look like they enjoyed the storm much. I was about as wet after cycling home. But at least my house didn't blow upside down.

Katie (the Easter Egger) was bedraggled and ready to roost. You can see the beginnings of a red crest on her head.

I squelched out in my pajamas with an umbrella and herded them home. This time I remembered to stake the cage down with tent pegs. Later we put the kids to bed in torchlight after the power went out. And tomorrow if it rains, I'm taking the train.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hen Hutch

Chickens face all manner of adversity in Narburbia. To predators they resemble nothing so much as a defenceless and slow-moving meatball. And escapees risk summary execution. I needed a cage that was easy to build, light enough to be moved around the lawn, and that provided a sheltered roost and nest box.

After a brief survey of possible designs I settled on a 4' x 4' x 10' frame of 1/2" EMT secured by bolted cornerpieces. I used copious black zip ties to attach panels of 2" x 4" weldmesh fencing. The roost consisted of a length of 2" x 3" sheltered inside a recycled plastic barrel. A tarpaulin completed the defences against the elements and provided a measure of camouflage.

With the help of a local breeder I populated the coop with a varied trio of pasture raised birds. The girls and I are very fond of our cuddly and docile hen Shirley. Let's hope she gets through her moult soon and gets back on the lay. Her companion pullets are beautiful and growing up fast. Already their peeping is more cluck-like and their faces are becoming red.

I'm afraid the tractor doesn't afford them anything like the space they are used to: I might have to think about putting up an electric fence to give them a bigger pen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bill McHugh

The pink cheeks of the hunt race society, shining from the pages of the Main Line Times like baboon rumps in a jungle of millinery, give a glossy reflection of life in the Narburbs.

More resonant are the kinetic sculptures of Bill McHugh. Whirling and tottering, skeletal and towering, these space age leviathans animate their environment using the motion of squirrels and birds and the power of the sun.