The plan to move our chickens onto healthier ground is progressing nicely. James and I have settled on the idea of a coop on wheels, so we can move it around the garden, which has the additional benefit of outwitting the rodents that keep plaguing us and our flock. We put chicken food away every night yet they continue to tunnel into the undercover runs. James set a hen-safe trap the other day and claimed that his quarry was the size of a small dog (although I’m taking that with a pinch of salt). So, we’re hoping that a mobile henhouse will solve a variety of problems. We loved the look of the readymade ones available but didn’t want to fork out what was looking like £1,000-plus on poultry accommodation. So, DIY is the way forward, and we have ordered a 5′ x 7′ shed. This weekend we’ll be selecting wheels and tyres and James will be seeking out a suitable axle to fit them. It’ll come to around half the cost of buying one off the peg.
We’re even considering consolidating our flocks – it seems like madness that we’ve Margot and Audrey in a coop and run by themselves. They’d be on healthier ground free of rodents if we invited them to join the others, though I’m slightly concerned they could feel stressed in a big group. Audrey’s only ever had one friend to live with – Margot now and Mabel before her. Something to mull over, anyway. We also plan to have fewer hens overall. As our older girls pass on, we’ve decided not to replace every one as a smaller flock will mean it’s easier to keep an eye on each chicken’s health and treat them for worms and parasites.
Over in the porcine world, our attempts to prevent the trio of Oxford Sandy & Blacks destroying the elder tree in their run have failed. They scoffed at the barbed wire barricade, which we considered to be very off-putting, and – naturally – it was naughty pig that I spotted stepping through the gap between the strands to carry on digging and chewing through the roots. So, sadly, electric fencing is the next option and James is setting that up today. The elder is not only precious for its flowers and fruits, but also for the shelter it affords the pigs. The ground under its branches is often the driest spot for sprinkling their feed or apples. Silly things. My sister pointed out very wisely that they may be nibbling at the bark for good reason – perhaps it has a health benefit. I’d be really interested to hear if anyone knows if this is the case…? In the meantime, happy smallholding all.