I have no wish to decieve anyone via my blog. Much as I adore my girls, it would be wrong of me to only highlight the amusing positives of hen keeping. So, today I am tackling one of the downsides. The garden.
As mentioned several times before, my back garden is not measured in acres. In fact, it can be measured in a few fence panels and long strides. Therefore certain allowances must be made. If you've ever heard a back garden chook keeper say that their hens make no impact on their garden, I can safely say that they either keep their birds confined, have no interest in their garden looking nice for the neighbours, or own a country estate. The truth is that chickens are like any other pet. They rearrange the landscape somewhat.
If you're going to keep chooks in the garden, get used to poo picking. And not once a week either. We're talking daily vigilance. Unlike say, a dog that thoughtfully defecates once a day, a hen will poo as she roams. And she will poo a lot. The more you let your hens roam, the wider a poo picking area you have to cover. And don't expect them to have any respect. Anywhere is fair game.
Now that my pampered ladies have the Palace to call home, I am restricting their free ranging. Many people would argue that letting them out for 3-4 hours a day is actually quite a lot, but usually they have been given their freedom for most of the day. In the summer that equals approximately 12 hours of pooing, munching and digging. This year, I am taking back control.
I have got in to the routine of letting them out in the morning, and shutting them back in to the run at lunchtime. They are tolerating this at the moment, but I know that when the longer days roll around they will be most miffed. Thing is, this comes back to the poo issue. Twelve hours of unfettered wandering leaves the garden smelling less than fragrant. Sizzling chicken poo has a scent straight out of Hades. Until someone invents a nappy for chickens, letting them spread manure all over the place in the heat is off the menu. While I love seeing the girls sunbathe and laze about the garden on sultry summer evenings, I'd also quite like to have some flowers. Or any plants really. Apparently, I can't have both.
In an effort to give the newly sprouting plants a fair chance, I am going to fence in the main border. I've tried keeping the hens penned in, and frankly they treat such measures with total disdain. It usually works for five minutes before one by one they harrier jump jet over the netting and wander off to eat something. I am hoping that penning the plants in has more success.
Ask me if it's worked around May.