"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Restricted, but still working

This was a strange winter.  I didn't put on my warm jacket once.
But, surprisingly, we had snow on the mountains which are visible from our smallholding - not once, not twice, but three times!!
It's a pity the snow doesn;t come lower,
but I guess it is better than nothing :)
Normally if that happens only once a winter we are lucky, but three times???

Given our topsy-turvy weather, I have this niggly feeling that this summer is going to be an extra-ordinarily hot one.

So I have to make plans now.

The chickens have had free access to the entire property ever since they arrived here.  Not that you'd know it - they tend to hang as close to the house as they possibly can - trying to wheedle food out of us every time they see us.

And, the new rooster, Tweedle dee's now grown up chick, has decided that RMan will be the target of his displeasure when he feels that the (easy) food distribution is taking too long.
Existing chicken range
The problem with allowing the chickens total free reign is two-fold.

1  They are casting aside whatever mulch we place round fruit trees, grape vines, veggie patches and berry bushes.

2  We run our Cape Town based business from home, and, the rooster has no remorse crowing right by the back and front doors whenever he feels like it.  What our potential, or existing customers think about that noise as background to their telephone conversations I have no idea, and there is no additional charge for the sounds effects, but it is not an ideal situation.

3 Stepping out either the front or back door became an obstacle course - trying to avoid their "parcels".

Plus, I have one chicken who refuses to lay with the others - look what I found under the  bay tree...
As you can tell, I have been searching for her
 eggs for 13 days...
So, we have made a plan.

We decided to restrict their free ranging to the back area - in our lemon orchard.
New chicken range
Being, on average, 38mtrs X 30 mtrs in extent (or 1140mtr2), and considering that they are given a generous amount of chicken feed / laying pellets twice every day (good morning and goodnight) I am not concerned that they are going to suffer.  (Note: Althought the 24/7 feed bucket worked very well, and was hung high enough in the coop to prevent the mice from accessing it, I had to remove it from the coop as the wild birds found it.  Perhaps I will introduce it again next winter...)

The chickens noses are a tad put out of joint, but they'll get used to it ;)  The occasional one has found her way over the new fence, but that generally happens round about the evening feed time, so getting her back into the orchard area is quick and easy - she follows me because I'm holding the chicken feed bucket.
The separation involved running a chicken wire fence down next to the berry area.
New gate to access the lemon trees and the
 chicken coop.
We have placed a gate right next to the coop...
New tractor access gate
... and RMan has made a stonking gate next to the boys paddock so that he can still get his tractor out of the area.

The only problem is we keep our alpaca pool pile in that new chicken area.

We covered it up with heavy black plastic for the winter - to prevent any potential heavy downfalls of rain from "washing the goodness away" and to encourage the pile to heat up and kill any weed seeds.   That also meant that the chickens didn't have access to it - they were tending to scatter it's contents to the wind...
Seems like a small pile of alpaca poo, but we have
already started feeding the plants with a dose of it's
 goodness in anticipation of their bearing fruit / veggies
However, as they will now be restricted to the area where the poo pile is located so that doesn't seem all that clever.

On re-potting a pot plant on our patio last weekend, I also noticed that the soil inside the pot was full of cutworm - which must've come from the alpaca poo pile.

So, exposing the poo pile to the chickens is win-win - they get additional insect protein whilst they're turning over our poo "compost" :D

Oh yes - look what we've got access to...!
Actually, they get (got) more than insects.  As we lifted the black plastic, we spotted a fair sized frog (which they totally ignored) and a mouse - which crouched transfixed at the sudden sunlight / sight of us and the chickens.
One mouse - it had just seconds to
realise what was happening...
It didn't last long though.  One of the chickens spotted it, grabbed it, ran away from the other chickens and, in one gulp, swallowed it.
She is doing that chickens are meant to do -
find the insects in the poo pile - but, in so doing,
 she is scattering the alpaca poo far and wide...
But, what to do about their scattering the gorgeous compost material everywhere?

For that solution, you'll have to wait until it is complete and I can share it with you all... :D


Mum said...

On no, another wait! Poo collecting machine? Poo fenced area with visiting times for hens? Poo scattering defences?

Dawn McHugh said...

we mulch straight away with the poo when its collected and never seem to have enough, its a shame chickens have to be so destructive I would love to let ours free range the veg area to keep pests down.

Dani said...

Sorry Mum - if I had tried to write both posts in one, it would only have happened when we completed the 'paca poo solution, and it would've been a very long post. You're right though... ;)

Dani said...

Dawn - We porefer to give the poo time to lose it's pee odour - which is hectically strong.

Yeah, free ranging chickens and veggie beds DO NOT work! ;)

Marlene aka Ouma Miaau said...

Actually, in true permaculture practice, the chickens are left to scratch in the manure as they air it and of course getting rid of all goggas that might be lurking. Just keep on dumping the poo in the same place maybe adding some grass cuttings etc to really have it breakdown into fabulous compost. Chickens' value far outweighs the 'obstacles'left by them on stoeps etc!

Dani said...

Marlene - The chickens will still have access to the paca poo, but will, hopefully, be prevented from scattering it far and wide...

I agree, their benefits far outweight their "parcels"!!

Harry Flashman said...

Chickens will eat about anything. I think if I had a stroke and was laying out there by the barn, they would eat me.

I'd get rid of ours if my wife and daughter didn't like them so much. They cost a lot to feed, and they poo all over everything, even the vehicles.

Dani said...

Harry - Ooooh the picture of your chickens eating you offends, but, after watching how quickly and easily the mouse disappeared, I have to agree - it's probably possible...

Yeah - they are very poo-ish creatures, but then all birds are indiscriminate aren't they ;)

Leigh said...

Good call on selecting a more specific area for the chickens. I'm curious about your solution to scattered mulch around the trees. I've finally decided to get some short (2 foot) chicken netting to ring my trees in to hold the mulch. My chickens have destroyed a number of saplings but removing the mulch and then digging up the soil around the roots. sigh

Pretty soon we'll be planting for winter pasture. That requires wing clipping and fence fixing to keep them in their yard for awhile!

Dani said...

Leigh - Chicken wire round your trees is a good idea. Our solution will t ake a little longer, but as soon as it is sorted I will post about it.