September 23, 2007 -- Fall Equinox

New Chicken Yard


This month I finally got the new chicken yard up and all hens into it. They responded by immediately doubling their egg production, though the eggs are still small as are the hens.

I am not sure if that is because they got stunted from chilling during shipping, or if this strain is just tiny. Having more space definitely made the hens happier, which lead to more eggs, which made me happier.

Fence construction on this yard was a little different. You can see from the picture that there is a mound of rocks along the bottom of the yard's fence, what you cannot see is that instead of burying the fence into the ground, this runs out along the ground for about a foot. This meant that any creature trying to dig into this yard will have to remove the mound of rocks, then try to dig under the fence.

Doing so will not be fast or easy. If you look at my July blog it shows how a coyote ate right through along the bottom of the chickenwire fence, then deftly removed a rooster.

To counter that kind of attack, my yard now has a second layer of protection behind the chickenwire, with a layer of 'hog fence' that will prevent any coyote from reaching in, even if they can chew or dig through the chickenwire surrounding the yard.

Chickenwire extends up about eight feet from the ground. Over the top of the yard I attached some heavy duty poultry netting, sewing it to the chickenwire with twine from hay bales. The framework is dry-fitted (not glued) 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe.

My last chicken yard was framed with 4x4 wood and when a large oak branch fell on the yard in a windstorm, the wood splintered and collapsed. If this yard gets a visit from an oak branch I think that the PVC pieces may break, but they will be easily replaced.

The larger old chicken house has been replaced by two smaller structures which have roosts inside. The hens definitely prefer the smaller of the two structures, they crowd into it at night until you would think no more could fit.

To keep egg production up in the winter, both small shelters have solar powered lights that burn for about four hours after dark every evening. Simple, eco friendly and less dangerous than a 120 volt system.

So my chickens are settled in for the winter, here in California this kind of open shelter seems the kindest thing that I can offer them.

If you live in a cold climate, please check with your local extension agent for recommendations about what kind of structure is appropriate for your local weather. This structure, perfect for my place in the hills outside Los Angeles, would be inadequate where I used to live in Michigan.

Cheers for a new Chicken Yard!