Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The garden and the chickens

My garden is looking a bit of a mess at the moment.  These pictures were taken two summers ago before the arrival of our two hens, Sage and Onion.

They have a coop and run which is suitable for 3/4 hens so they should have plenty of room but I wanted them to have more freedom and space and so they have had the run of the garden for most of the day. When we made this decision I had no idea just how much destruction two hens could do.

Now eighteen months later, the patio is permanently covered with soil and stones, all the plants in pots have disappeared

and parts of my lawn look like this.....

At the end of last winter the grass looked very sparse and it did not fully recover during the summer.  This year it looks worse.

Another disadvantage of having hens in the garden is that unless I keep the back door closed I have hens in my kitchen, which is quite sweet but not very practical.

Do I sound fed up?  We like having the chickens and they are very friendly, sitting on the bench beside us when we take our cups of tea outside and rushing up to meet me each day when I go out to hang the washing on the line, but I also like my garden.

Hopefully we have found a solution,  we are going to share the garden, half for the chickens and half for me to actually grow a few plants in.  You can just see the netting fence in the photo dividing the garden into two.

The trouble is, the chickens are not happy with the fence.  They peck at it, they poke their heads through the holes in the netting, they paw at it with their feet and they moan. So now of course I feel guilty about restricting them to the bottom of the garden.

I am hoping that after a few days they will have got used to the fence and will be contented chickens once more.  Does anyone know if chickens have long memories or will they soon forget they once ruled over the whole garden?


Susan said...

We are in pretty much the same boat-with 17 chickens, all of them the expense of the once beautiful garden. Hope all goes better with the segregation! Sue.

Moonroot said...

Compromise is usually a good solution in my experience - but I have no idea how long they will remember their previous territory. Perhaps you could explain to them how well off they are compared to battery hens!

Denise said...

I didn't realise they were called Sage and Onion - how cute! Maybe you should show them the oven and threaten them with an alternative fate if they don't behave. I don't know anything about chicken psychology, but maybe the fact they can see the rest of the garden is what's frustrating them - if you could plant something along the boundary that would block their view, maybe they'd be satisfied with their space.

willow said...

I arrived home from work yesterday afternoon to find two very smug hens on "my" side of the fence! I think I have found the gap where they squeezed through and have done some repairs.

I wonder if they think they are further away from their source of tasty titbits when they are further from the house. Perhaps as they realise that scraps and cake crumbs are still on offer in their half of the garden they will like it better.

My son is amused by this battle of wits and was heard humming the tune from The Great Escape yesterday evening - I don't think they tunneled their way out though!

Compostwoman said...

You could try shutting them in their run only for a day or two, then when they are allowed out they are more content with life!

If it is any consolation, my lot do this, too...when they are shut in the orchard pen, which is a rough square of 25 m x 25 m....

and they all STILL run up and down along the netting!

And when in the garden ( 3/4 of an acre!) they STILL want to get into the wood....

its thier nature to be contrary!

Heather L. said...

Your fence looks like a good idea! I hope the chickens get use to it quickly.

willow said...

Chicken update

On Friday I returned home to find one chicken on one side of the fence and one on the other. Both of them were clearly upset about the situation and each wanted to be on the other side. I reunited them and they calmed down.
They have shown no signs of wanting to escape over the weekend and seem quite content now. Hopefully they will now stay in their half!

libby said...

Hi Willow,

Glad your hens seem to have settled down into their "new" area. Cute as they are they can be very destructive. Our 6 girls are in an area that used to have grass - not a blade left now. Luckily it's an area that I do not see from "any" part of our house :-). it was designed to be a clothes line area - but I've had to put in a clothes line in another area now :-)