Since Paul has taken over the daily farm chores, I only get out there every few weeks or so to work on occasional projects. Today the plan was to move the goat fences so that their pen no longer surrounds the chicken pen. However, some of the screws on the goat house have come loose and I can't move it anymore. It will have to stay where it is until next spring or summer, when I can repair it. So the only options were to leave things as they were or move all the poultry to a new spot. There are over 50 chickens and around 10 ducks, so it really was not going to be feasible to move them. We would have spent hours rounding up the strays, and they really don't like changes to their routine, anyhow. So I just tidied up and tensioned the goat fences to keep them better contained. We worked with Balto a little bit today by tossing one of the Australorps out into the goat pen and growling at him any time he made a move towards it. It didn't take long for him to start turning his back on the loose chicken any time it ran near him, so he was a good boy. I want to try to get out there tomorrow, as well, to reinforce the training. I want it firmly established in his mind that the birds belong to the humans, and are not to be messed with.
I also worked on the chicken house. It has a tarp for a roof, necessary to keep the weight down on a movable building. It worked really well until I got the bantams, which are light enough to fly up and perch on the roof to roost. They taught the Wyandottes to do the same, and probably the Australorps will also join in when they get bigger*. All of those claws don't take long to rip through a tarp, even a heavy duty one. I had just put a brand new tarp on a few weeks ago, since the cold weather and precipitation really made it necessary to have a roof on the house. The ducks and the chicks sleep in there, even if the other chickens don't. Anyhow, several big windstorms came through soon after I put the tarp on, and broke the string holding it to the roof. Those were just supposed to be temporary, until I can put zip ties on to really hold it down. So I tied down the tarp again today, and then I went looking in the woods for a long piece of wood to attach to the apex of the house for the birds to perch on, to protect the tarp. It needed to be about 13 feet long, mostly straight, and not too heavy to lift up. At first I had little luck finding anything like that, but then I remembered that last summer I had cut down a dead walnut sapling, and that turned out to be perfect. It was a little bit on the heavy side, but with Paul's help it was no difficulty to lift it up and attach it. It is just tied on right now, but I'll probably get some long, skinny bolts to attach it more securely.
*The Rhode Island Reds never learned how to perch. One sleeps in the house, the other three insist on sleeping in the nest box. It's not feasible at this point to get out there early every morning to open up the nest box for them, so we just change the bedding in there anytime it starts to get too soiled. One night I was out there, and kicked them out of the nest box and then turned it so that the opening faced the opposite way. Chickens aren't very good at problem-solving, especially after dark, so three very confused hens just stood there looking at where the door used to be. It was pretty funny, and I wish I had thought to take my camera with me that night.
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