I had this notion that I could keep chickens in my back garden as sort of living statues. They would artfully pose in the borders, adding a certain rustic charm to the view from the kitchen window. I would occassionally throw them a handful of corn, and they would cluck gently all day before taking themselves off to bed at dusk, so that we could sit outside and have a barbie. Oh, the naivety.
Chickens are only like living statues if the statues in question leave their own weight in poo all over the garden. Seriously, they are manure machines. And they don't stick to the borders. In fact, their absolute favourite place to poo is just outside the back door, where they stand glaring in at me until I fetch them something nice to eat. I can regularly be seen sweeping the decking and lawn with a yard brush, looking like a complete fruitcake. The chooks watch me with interest, before running over to the newly swept ground to check for interesting and tasty bugs. To make room for these delicious morsels, they will of course need to poo. Great.
We have a charming wooden coop for the hens, that I have nicknamed 'The Convent'. It has an attatched covered run, enabling me to leave the girls outside if I'm not at home. In the run, I use horse bedding. They love to dig/scratch around in this stuff, and it absorbs the poo (Poo is becoming a bit of a theme, don't you think?) Despite the ever tolerant husband putting a little enclosure around the bottom of the run, they still manage to fire an enormous amount of this bedding out into the garden. Seriously, it's carnage. Now that they are laying, they also like to get lumps of this bedding and deposit it around the garden as temporary nests.
The hens and I are at war over ownership of the garden. At first glance, it appears that they are winning.