The Farm Report: Reclaiming The Chicken-Yard Jungle

When we moved the chickens to the back of the property a couple of years ago, we kept the old chicken yard in the front pasture. I had visions of maybe putting a goat out there someday. A nice little barn, a barnyard with a secure fence, netting overhead … what’s not to like?

What’s not to like is that this part of Tennessee is apparently ideal for growing jungles. When I had time, I kept the jungle at bay. Heck, I even tilled the ground inside that chicken yard last year (picture below) and planted some tiger nuts, which have the reputation of being so prolific, they take over an area.

The area was indeed taken over, but not by tiger nuts. The chicken yard became home to a huge variety of tough plants, along with bees, wasps, and countless other insects.  Any time I got near the yard, I heard a cacophony of chirping, buzzing, trilling and rattling. We had such a complicated ecosystem thriving in there, I’m surprised the EPA didn’t stop by to tell me I could never touch it.

Since I didn’t relish the idea of having to periodically get in there under the nets and whack down the jungle, I decided it was time for a long conversation with Chareva to discuss the future of the chicken yard. The conversation went like this:

“Are we ever going to use that front chicken yard for anything again?”


“So can we just get rid of it?”


Just get rid of it sounds easy. Of course, there was rather a lot of work involved.

First, I had to remove the fencing. I snipped away the aluminum ties that clipped the fencing to the t-posts, then yanked and yanked to no avail. The weeds had become intertwined with the fence all along the base, and it was like trying to pull up a tree.

After reciting some ancient curses known only to farmers, I had an inspiration. I looped a chain through the fence and attached the other end to the back of my car. Then I drove sloooowly away from the chicken yard. Sure enough, that ripped the fencing out of the ground.  It also left behind some impressive furrows.

The universe seems to have certain rules about which kinds of people are attracted to each other. A night person will usually marry a day person, for example. That’s the case in our marriage. Someone who wants to throw away  everything not being used will marry someone who wants to save everything. That’s also the case in our marriage.

I would have chucked the fencing since much of it had gotten torn, but Chareva spotted long sections that were intact. We had a long conversation to determine the future of the fencing. The conversation went like this:

“That’s good, strong fencing. We can’t just throw it all away. That would be a waste.”

“Okay, Honey.”

So we unrolled it all in the pasture and removed the weeds, then she cut away long sections to save. Then we rolled those up again and stored them in the barn.

With the fencing out of the way, I was able to remove the t-posts. I like cranking away on the t-post remover because it’s good exercise. There’s also very little chance I’ll whack myself in the head with a heavy chunk of steel.

I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement for the Swisher Predator (a.k.a. The Beast), but man, that thing was a real find. The picture below should give you an idea of how thick and tall the jungle was in front of the barn.

Here’s the same area after I pushed The Beast through there. It just kept chewing up the jungle and spitting it out.

That’s The Beast in the foreground below. The jungle is officially whacked, and the chicken yard is gone. I’ll till the ground one more time, then we’ll toss some grass seeds in there.

I sent the picture above to Jimmy Moore to make his day. During our disc-golf tournaments, he’s had quite a few shots drift into the nets that covered the chicken yard. Now all he has to worry about is hitting the barn — which he assures me he’ll do.


19 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Reclaiming The Chicken-Yard Jungle

  1. Bob Niland

    It’s one of the Rural Rules™…

    You can’t throw away fencing (or T-posts or baling wire) until it’s been used at least 3 times.

    And then when it’s finally completely useless, don’t be surprised if your local refuse station takes it for free, and has a dedicated pile (ours does).

    Then a few weeks later, being scrap steel, it shows up at Tractor Supply as new fencing, T-posts and wire.

      1. Jason B.

        I just finished listening to “Junkyard Planet” by Adam Minter on audiobook. Odds are, it does make a round trip through China.

        It’s more likely to go if it’s insulated electrical wire, because the labor there is cheaper (and the environmental laws laxer) so it’s easier to remove the insulation there. But, for bare wire like you’re talking about, it might stay in the States depending on how much labor is or isn’t required to get it fit to melt back down.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Lierre Keith explained in ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ that Indiana was pretty much all dense forest until cleared for farming. Kind of surprised me, seeing it now.

      1. Lori Miller

        Indiana’s forests have fall colors that give New England a run for its money.

        Oddly, the fact that Indiana is a natural forest is more apparent in the city than in most of the countryside. Some of the parks are mostly left in their natural state, and anything not maintained (even roof gutters) start growing trees.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Some of them were growing in the chicken-yard jungle. Chareva recognized the flowers. Unfortunately, they were surrounded by the rest of the jungle. Rather than hack our way in there just to harvest the tiger nuts, we elected to just let them go. I may try planting some again someday.

  2. Elenor

    Oh Farmer Tom, Farmer Tom! I LOVE your farm reports. I will never be out there with stake pullers and weed-chompers… that’s what money is for! But I LOVE reading about you and Chareva and the kids living the GREAT AMERICAN LIFE!! What a difference from LA!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m happy to pay other people to do stuff like cut the front pastures. But yeah, I enjoy getting out there and getting dirty. Good for the soul.

  3. chris c

    OK, where did you get those photos of my garden???

    The soil here is magnificent – presumably the same quality as the fields out back, which has maintained its growing potential since these houses were built in the sixties, and probably aided by the decade I spent shredding and composting and returning all the garden waste and vegetable remains, plus some nice smelly dung.

    I only didn’t do the pruning and weeding etc. since last year and then never caught up due to the profusion of weeds and wildlife, plus my trusty strimmer (what we call a weed whacker) finally expired after a mere fifteen years, plus a few medical problems brought about by my thyroid going off on one. Plus when I’ve had the energy I’ve been expending it on walking while I still can.

    I ended up Getting A Man In earlier in the year and now I’ll need to do the same again since it all grew back again with extreme rapidity, then I’ll probably need to do the same yet again later in the year too when the leaves have dropped and the Virginia Creeper has finished showing off – it’s in the process of looking ultra-magnificent but has taken over a huge area – and I have a couple of trees that have outgrown their space which need to come down.

    Maybe by next year I’ll be back to tackling the work myself before it gets so overwhelming. A problem here is that the Men I know who used to do this stuff have mostly retired, which leads to a meta-problem since they are now also Getting A Man In, and the ones left in work are now overworked. Oh well, the bees and butterflies are probably thankful. I know the birds are because they keep leaving little presents plastered all over my car.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’m going to assume that’s a typo and you meant “mental issues.” But if he does have metal issues, I’d suggest he stop eating metal, even if it’s vegan-approved.

  4. Marion

    Get a couple of piglets in the spring. Pen them and move the pen every week or so. They will eat those plants and rootle up the roots. After six months you’ll have all the bacon your family needs, a freezer of pork and a piece of land that have been cleared of ‘jungle’.


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