Chareva’s spring project arrived on Saturday. It looked like this:
The delivery guys asked me where to dump the hardware. I pointed to Chareva and said, “Ask her. She’s the farmer.”
One of them chuckled. “So you’re the farmer around here, huh?”
“Yes, I’m the farmer. He’s the husband. His job is to pay for everything and lift the heavy stuff.”
I was going to tell them I’m actually in charge around here, but Chareva didn’t grant me permission to speak.
Anyway, Chareva ordered all that hardware because she spent the cold-and-icy season making big plans for our side field. The plans look like this:
We currently have two flocks of chickens living outdoors, one in the front pasture and one in the side field. We also have 26 chicks living in the basement, and 12 more on the way. The front-pasture flock includes old hens, some younger hens, and two roosters. They’ve pecked the ground inside their pen down to the dirt. They need fresh grass.
The old hens and at least one of the roosters will soon be re-purposed as chicken stock. The younger hens, the chicks in the basement, and the chicks still on the way will live in the side field, along with the chickens already living there. I’m not sure how Chareva plans to divvy up all the birds, but we’ll end up with Flock A and Flock B. She might divide Flock B in two, with a fence in the middle of their chicken yard.
If you look at Chareva’s drawing, you’ll notice both flocks will have access to a narrow area surrounding her gardens. She added that to the plans after a reader linked to an article about building a chicken moat. The moat is one of those ideas that’s so brilliantly simple, I wanted to slap myself for not thinking of it before.
As you’ll recall, we get morning visitors who look like this:
I love seeing deer out there, but several readers warned that deer will happily leap a fence to eat up a garden. From what I’m told, however, they won’t jump a double fence. We’d considered stringing some sort of barbed-wire fence around the garden to discourage the deer, but the chicken moat is much more useful. The chickens will eat bugs migrating towards the garden, and they’ll peck away the weeds that would otherwise grow into the garden fence. Plus the deer won’t (supposedly) jump the moat. Like I said, brilliantly simple. A triple-duty solution.
Both chicken yards will be covered with nets, as will the chicken moats. Without nets, we’d be raising chickens for the privilege of feeding the local hawks.
It was a gorgeous weekend in our part of Tennessee, so we got busy with the construction job. Chareva had already marked off the fence lines with string, so all we had to do was add labor. (As small-time farmers, I believe we’re exempt from child-labor laws. Besides, we call it exercise, not labor.)
There were new gates in the load of hardware, but we also have some old gates that have been sitting on the property since we moved here. One of them was bent out of shape, so I convinced it to straighten up and fly right by applying a sledgehammer.
Most of my workday consisted of pounding in t-posts. The t-post hammer is heavy, so I guess that fits the “lift the heavy stuff” part of my husbandly duties. Pounding posts into the ground is also a great workout for the shoulders and triceps.
We learned on previous projects that eyeballing a t-post and saying “Yup, that looks straight” is a bad idea. The steep hills fool the eye. So with each post, I pounded it in a bit, then used to level to adjust the tilt, then finished pounding. And it was a lot of pounding:
The newly-pounded t-posts in the picture below will form one of the chicken moats:
Chareva wants the interior gates bolted to wood posts. She and I dug a hole as deep as the length of my arm to sink one of the posts. She bought long posts, so even with more than two feet below ground, I’m tempted to carve totems into the remainder.
The hoop houses for the chickens will be constructed from cattle panels bent inside two rows of t-posts. Chareva and Sara set the distance, then I pounded in the posts.
Another of our spring plans is to fence in the side field and the back of the property. We got an estimate awhile back for having a split-rail fence installed around the entire farm, but decided the money would be better spent improving the house and buying a tractor someday. Nobody sees the side and back of the property besides us, so we’re going to use cattle panels. That job became much more feasible after I whacked my way through a jungle that had grown up around the side creek and discovered the t-posts are already in place.
I can’t capture the entire side field with my camera, but you can see a good chunk of it below. When the fence is in place, we’ll be able to open up the back yard and let the dogs run around here to their hearts’ content.
I suspect once the dogs have access to this area, the deer won’t be anxious to visit anymore. That’s the downside. The upside is that raccoons and bobcats probably won’t be anxious to visit either. With 70 or so chickens eventually living in the side field, that can only help.