Welcome to the grand opening ceremony! What an exciting event we have here today! You may not know what all the fanfare is about but you will in a minute. Alright, everyone get ready – here come the VIPs!
Mr Bingley was supposed to be the flag-bearer, but Lydia couldn’t help herself.
Jane forges to the front.
Jane, Lydia and Mr Bingley come hand-in-hand while Kitty waits for the others.
That’s right, folks, today you have the privilege of witnessing the official opening of the second chicken pen, henceforth to be known as The Cedar Pen. (Unless the cedar tree gets the chop. But it won’t for now.) This event is the culmination of months of tree pruning, ivy clearing, stump removing, fencing, old fort sawing and nailing, raking and rubbish removing. Countless hours have been spent preparing this place for the chickens. A proper job has been done of it. No temporary pens over here anymore. Not only do the chickens now have an alternate pen to give the other one time to recover, a decent chunk of the garden has been ‘dealt with’. It has gone from one of the bushy, overgrown corners that I was hoping to avoid for a while, to a useful area. I would like to plant some more chicken-friendly, non-escape-promoting plants in there at some point, but that is more of a fun job for later.
This raised bed was the cause of most of the time and energy. Big tree, stumps, re-sprouting stumps, ivy, pinecone scales…
Doesn’t the cedar tree look a whole heap better than it did before?
The old fort has been re-purposed into a shelter/dust-bathing area. The top of it used to be the fort platform. I measured up one of the plywood sides of the fort for The Husband to cut and nail onto the legs on each side. Then he cut down the posts down to ‘roof’ level and I nailed two new planks on the roof. There are still some gaps between the planks of the roof so I have temporarily covered it with a tarp to make it more rain-proof.
The gate here just needed a half layer of chicken wire attached to the top to prevent wandering roosters, then I transferred it to the gap I left for a gate alongside the carport. The chickens go through where this gate is, turn left under the woodshed and then into the run area where the coop is. The Orchard Pen goes behind the garage and round the right side of it.
The gate gap. Access will be mostly through the garage side door, but having a wider gate is important for wheelbarrow access.
The gate is a bit temporary because the carport is going to come down at some point. I want the lower support posts to stay, so everything is only stapled to them.
I did one layer of 900mm-high, 25mm hole diameter netting topped with a layer of 50mm diameter netting cut in half. It was cheaper to use netting with a bigger hole at the top and chicks aren’t going to escape up there. I didn’t want the fence too high though, hence I cut the roll in half.
Even my edges are done nicely to avoid poky bits.
And now for a little history of the chicken pen area to see how far it’s come in two years:
Here it’s a firewood sorting and cutting area. There was a tall, yellow, narrow conifer (behind The Father) back in those days.
The old fort and the remnants of an old sandpit can be seen here, as The Husband cuts up the first tall conifer that he felled.
The pruning mountains begin.
The first temporary pen, hastily set up for the arrival of young Elrond, our first rooster.
The next temporary pen. The too-much-work-basket on the left was fenced off. One of the big gates is now our entrance gate and the other is destined to be a side gate. Once the chickens started jumping up onto the wooden gates I was in trouble, hence all the wire now. I have learnt to think like a chicken.
The camellia bush, which was actually a collection of stumps and sprouting bits, had to be pruned hard to get the chicken wire around it. A young Lydia once got lost one night and I found her hiding inside this camellia bush.
In October last year, the work began on doing things properly. The fort was first in the firing line as I sledgehammered away my grief at losing Legolas, dear mother of Mary.
I discovered that the bay tree along the fence wasn’t just one tree…
Bay tree stems can be seen all around. More clearing revealed the old stump in the middle, and everything else is a re-sprouted stem. I have kept a few straightish trunks.
Three months ago the clearing work really got cracking.
The clearing began.
I did some bushwhacking and The Husband felled two tall, narrow conifer trees.
Camellia stumps are everywhere, as well as re-sprouting bay tree (right) and unruly quince shrub (left). There was a lot of awkward cutting, hacking and digging to clear the way for wire netting to be stapled along the wooden fence.
The Husband dismantles the tall, yellow, narrow conifer.
I sledgehammered out the wooden sides of the ancient sandpit and the fort sides are ready for cutting.
Stumped: The biggest camellia stump, with another one in front of the quince bush on the left.
The big stump left a big hole. Camellia stumps are hideous.
My successful haul of four stumps in one day. Well, the big one took days of chipping away, but this day was the victorious one!
For the record, rubbish findings in this area, aside from the usual and numerous pieces of plastic and twine, included a ball, a frisbie, a hunk of black plastic sheeting, a pair of half-degraded undies, a plastic container, a dinosaur figurine, a collection of shiny, flat blue marbles and a stainless steel set of two cups and one plate.
The chickens are absolutely loving having new ground to dig around in and a new place to explore. Mary and Georgiana were late to the proceedings. Contrary Mary got scared and that scared Georgiana, so they scuttled to and from the coop to the orchard until I closed off The Orchard Pen. Those two make each other bonkers sometimes. It is just lovely to be able to watch the feather children out the window, all happy. Except for the rainy part. The next lot of rain has hit us, bringing more surface flooding. Yikes! Thank goodness I finished the pen when I did. At least I won’t be worrying so much about their feet now that they’re away from the old, decimated, poopy, wet ground of The Orchard Pen. Jane is so excited about the new pen that she was still foraging in the steady rain yesterday.
Georgiana was late to the event. She is very impressionable and hates change, and Mary freaked her out.
Georgiana is very pretty and sweet though.
Mary was late too, but made up for it with her adventurous nature.
Jane is in my naughty books.
Lizzie, aka ‘Mrs Bingley’, struts her stuff.
PB (back) and Junior (front).
Kitty and Mary discover the upper level.
Lizzie joins them and Mary enjoys looking down on everyone.
Family portrait time. All chickens in one photo!
One of these things just doesn’t belong here… The wire netting is for keeping things in and out.
The younger girls: Mary, Kitty and Georgiana.
Mr Bingley with the older girls: Jane, Lydia and Lizzie.
The other day, The Husband was asking what all my chickens names are. He got a bit lost somewhere along the way after the Bennet girls started to appear. I rattled off my Pride and Prejudice crew: Mr Bingley, Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty, Lydia and Georgiana. “Now, I just need a Mr Darcy”, I said, with a smile. He knew that I might already have a Mr Darcy in a little chick that I like to call PB.
“What about Mr Collins?” He said.
“I don’t want a Mr Collins!” I replied.
“Haven’t you already got a Mr Collins?”
“Yes! No! Oh, no…”
The other chick, Lydia’s ‘Junior’, is almost certainly a boy, and is totally a Mr Collins. He’s a nutcase! The temporary name ‘Junior’ has all but disappeared because I can’t stop thinking of him as Mr Collins now. I have been mostly handling the chicks during the day but have moved to evening handling because chickens are more calm in the evening. A couple of nights ago I got Mr Collins out of the coop for some handling and he screamed blue murder, disturbing all the other chickens and quite possibly the neighbours. I got a bit of a shock after having just handled PB, who was nice and calm. I took Mr Collins away and even took him in the house for a little while to give him some decent handling. Most of the time he cheeped loudly, “Cheeeeeep, cheeeeeep!” He is almost 6 weeks old and is not sensible at all.
Now that I have completed The Cedar Pen, I’m not quite sure what to do next. As in, there are so many things that need to be done I barely know where to start. I have trimmed the hedge along the front fence, started weeding, harvested more walnuts and figs and made hot cross buns. And now I must get going, for the weeds are mocking me, the fruit trees need more discipline, there’s an barren plum tree to fell and the vege garden needs some love. Oh wait, there’s an ex-tropical cyclone coming. This morning I awoke to the news that yesterday’s surface flooding was just from a rain band and the actual storm was hitting this afternoon/evening and was purported to be a 50-year storm. It now sounds like it might not be as bad where we are but I’m still praying! There are poor people on the east coast still suffering from the damage of last week’s flooding who are in the line of the storm. Ok, I’ve battened down the hatches. Time to tackle some indoor tasks and projects. Opening Ceremony over!
Does this look familiar? Yesterday the surface flooding returned AGAIN. The poor soil is saturated.
I guess The Husband won’t be parking in his usual spot for a while. The road outside our gate was flooded again. It had almost subsided, but currently, it’s started flooding again…
The chickens were so excited about their new pen that some of them, particularly Jane, still foraged in the steady rain.