(From Joshua) -
While Shannon and the children are swanning around South Africa, I'm left home to hold the fort, at least for a couple of weeks. And though it's tempting to just eat cookie dough and watch MLS matches (and I'm certainly doing that), there's a bit of work to do before I head off, and I thought I'd keep Shannon and her audience updated via the blog.
Our main concern when leaving for any length of time is the safety of our stupid chickens, with whom I have a love/hate relationship. That is, I love two of them and hate the third — but as with children you can't admit that you have a favorite.
The chickens originally lived in a coop, which we had built by a friendly coop-carpenter in Stanwood. But with PETA videos of battery hens fresh in our minds and Shannon's previous experience owning chickens that roamed the yard, we were concerned about the amount of space they'd get, so we but an external run as well.
Once they grew past the pullet stage, they became quite sure that even the run was not enough space, and we began letting them run around the yard, which they greatly enjoyed and became quite accustomed to. Unfortunately, chickens have the worst bathroom habits in the animal kingdom and once our kids felt so besieged by chicken poop that they wouldn't even go outside, I built a 144 square foot chicken yard for them. Since chickens go through plants like locusts, their yard is quite barren and we occasionally feel sorry for them and let them out into the yard, but that's generally their home.
Unfortunately, the yard was never raccoon-proofed, since that would take a great deal more work and we've had run-ins with raccoons in the past and have no doubt they'd kill the chickens and eat the eggs in a heartbeat if they got the chance. So every night we lock the chickens into the coop and every morning we let them out. And if we're late letting them out, they let us know. They let us know like a fire alarm. So we drag ourselves out of bed at 6 in the morning in the summer and stagger out to free the chickens into the yard, all the while hoping that our neighbors aren't casting ancient curses on us. And it means that when we go on vacation, even for one night, we have to hire a neighborhood child to come lock up and free our chickens.
But we've had enough of that and I've decided to go through the work of predator-proofing our chicken yard. Mostly that involves digging chicken wire about 8 inches into the ground around the fence, so they can't dig under, and netting over the top so they can't climb in. I've considered that it might be less work to just wander the neighborhood and kill all the raccoons in a 3 mile radius, but I'm trying to be a good Buddhist, so instead I dig chicken wire all day in 90 degree weather. And while I'm at it, I'm trying to make the yard a little more livable with some vegetation that the chickens don't mow through. Shannon's quite pessimistic about this, but I think if the plants get established enough, they might leave them alone. They seem to avoid the big bushes in our yard when they're let out.
Anywho, here's some pictures of today's progress, including a little fenced off area where I've planted some shrub grasses as well as lawn grass, which I hope will grow large enough in a few weeks that I can let the chooks into it without them killing everything.