Monthly Archives: October 2012

A new dilemma

Geez, this only just struck me: I’m planning to put the chickens into a small pen for the rest of their lives. It’d be safe and peaceful and I’d look after them carefully, but they’d never be able to leave that pen ever again. Their entire world would be reduced to a small area of grass, and their only company would be each other.

How is that better than leaving them to suffer whatever the troubles might be in the neighbours’ pen – where they’d be shut in every night but they’d get to wander at will during the day, associating with whoever they want?

Which is worse? Night despair or day despair?

Now I don’t know what to do.

Planning the chook pen

I’ve nearly finished making the chickens’ roosts, which are designed to fit inside a moveable fibreglass igloo-type structure (once used as a calf shelter on the farm). That will be their house. Next I have to work out a way to make a door for it so the chickens can be shut in every night. After that I’ll need to make a moveable pen to enclose it: somewhere big enough for the chickens to live happily (because they’ll be stuck in there forever) and safe enough to keep predators out, plus not so ugly that anybody will object. Also, something I only realised last night: I have to be able to move the damn thing to wherever my new home will be – which means it will need to be made of sections small enough to disassemble and pack into the back of Dad’s ute.

Damn. I’d vaguely planned to use long weldmesh panels bent into a tunnel and covered with smaller-gauge wire mesh or shade cloth. Long panels won’t fit in a ute, though.

I’ve started doing a bit of research about wire mesh, and it’s a more expensive than I expected. Probably. (I haven’t seen any prices listed by local places, only online suppliers – which are likely to be more expensive… unless the opposite is true and they’re cheaper. I have no idea.) An example price from a place that specialises in aviary wire: a 20 metre roll of galvanised 1800mm wide mesh made of wire that is 1.25mm thick with gaps 12.5mm wide is $400. Twenty metres would only be enough to go around the pen once and I’d need a second or third roll to make the fence high enough, plus it needs to go over the top, too. The cost for mesh alone would be $800 to $1200, and that’s definitely not going to happen.

But I expect there’ll be cheaper alternatives. The problem with really cheap wire options, though, is that they either rust (they’re not galvanised) or they buckle. Years ago I used the cheapest option in chicken wire when building a chook pen and it buckled and warped like crazy. After the chooks were gone I reused the wire to fence a vegetable garden and it was almost useless, stretching wildly in every direction and even falling apart after only a few years.

Here’s what I’ve found out about the options in wire mesh – welded wire mesh, I think it’s called, but now I’m not sure and can’t be bothered checking (it’s more solid than chicken wire and constructed in a different way). I’m only including the sizes that seemed right for chicken pens; in each category there were also options that are larger.

Aperture sizes (gaps in the mesh):
– 6.5mm
– 9.5mm
– 12.5mm
– 25.0mm
Mesh that is specifically listed for chicken pens is 12.5mm, but the smaller sizes (9.5 and 6.5) are necessary if you want to exclude rats or snakes.

Widths:
– 600mm
– 900mm
– 1200mm
– 1800mm

Lengths (solid weldmesh types are available as sheets; flexible mesh in rolls):

sheets:
– 2000mm
– 2400mm
– 3000mm
– 6000mm

rolls:
– 15m
– 20m
– 30m

Wire diameter (thickness of strand, which affects whether the mesh will buckle or warp; several times I’ve seen 1.24mm/1.25mm recommended as a good size for chicken pens):
– 0.6mm
– 0.7mm
– 0.8mm
– 1.24 or 1.25mm
– 1.5mm
– 2.5mm

A new week of tasks

Last week I set myself the task of choosing three places to live and to look at what people do in each of those places.

But I didn’t do this. I only chose one place, reluctantly, but couldn’t choose two more. And all I did to survey what people do was to look at newspaper classifieds (Positions Vacant, and To Let) and read about community activities.

I only need one place to live, obviously, so maybe it doesn’t matter that I didn’t choose three. But it does matter: the task was to choose three; it wasn’t asking me how I felt about them.

It’s important that I stick to the tasks because otherwise I’ll wriggle out of doing anything at all as soon as things get harder. And the scary thing is that I haven’t had to do anything hard yet, but already I’m pretty damn scared.

Getting back on track, I’ve now chosen the three places. And I probably won’t be naming those places. I want to continue using this blog after I’ve moved, and I only feel okay about talking online if it’s not possible for any passing reader to know exactly where I live or who I am.

This week’s tasks:
Get a shirt made. I went back to trying to make a basic block or sloper (a pattern for bodice and skirt that fits me exactly and can be the foundation for any other garment). It’s trickier than you’d believe to get the measurements right. I’ve done it five times now, and messed it up every time.
– Get the chickens’ roosts made so they can live outside and I can experiment with ways to fence them in. (Saying “fence them in” makes me sad. They like roaming around. They’re not going to like being fenced in. And even worse – I think one of them is a cockerel or baby rooster. I’m not sure yet, but this one looks and acts differently to the rest. And if it is male, I can’t keep it. I can’t have a rooster in a backyard chook pen.)
– There should be tasks related to the three places and finding a job. At the moment I can’t think of any, seeing the first two tasks are going to take quite a lot of time, and also the “find a job” task is too scary to contemplate right now… which perhaps is a reason for doing any small task towards it instead of avoiding it altogether. So… I’ll look through the telephone directory index pages and choose five possible areas of work. How’s that? Not too scary, and even possibly useful.
– There should also be tasks about deciding what I want, or what I would want if I was wanting anything. What am I good at? Where would I most likely fit in well? Does the world want anything I can do? Could I be useful for something that’s needed? Etc. I can’t think of a specific thing to do towards this, though. How about this, though: do ten internet quizzes about career choices. Easy-peasy, but unlikely to be very useful. (I’ve done lots of quizzes in the past and they’ve never been useful before. But at least they do get you thinking in a certain direction, or something. Worth a try.)

Monday morning. Cloudy and cool. It might even rain a bit today. Off we go.

My family of chickens

I’m still looking after the baby chickens from next door – the ones who have apparently decided they don’t want to go home. During the day they continue to keep to themselves when the rest of the neighbours’ chooks come over here, and today I noticed they ran to a more secluded spot when one of roosters appeared, so maybe that’s been the problem for them all along: the damn roosters.

At night I continue to put them into a cardboard box and cover it with insect screen, but three of the chickens are growing so quickly they’ll soon be too tall for this arrangement. This weekend I started making a proper timber roost for them. By the time I’ve finished construction they’ll be able to sleep outside on their own roosts, in their own house, in their own pen.

So, this is starting to look permanent. But it can’t be permanent because I have to move out in December. It’s stupidly impractical to think about taking the chickens with me to live somewhere else, but that’s what I’m thinking. I looked up the local council regulations regarding backyard poultry, and both Byron and Ballina Councils will allow it under certain conditions. And I’ve looked up ways to make a portable coop and pen for them (variously called a chicken tractor, chook mower, egg mobile, hoop house, or other things, depending on how it’s made and how often it’s moved). If I could find a rental place with a backyard (a big if for a single person on a yet-to-be-found income) taking the chickens with me would be possible.

And I’ve thought about ways to justify keeping chickens who legally aren’t mine. Is it stealing? I’m saying it’s not, but if I had to argue the case I’d probably lose.

I think I’m doing the right thing morally. The chickens want to live here, apparently, and they don’t want to go home, also apparently. They made the decision, not me. I’m just trying to help them. They’re refugees. I’m giving them refuge.

But I like having them around, too, and I’d really like to take them with me when I go. The other day when I was driving around one of the towns on my list of possible places to live I was thinking about whether it felt like a good environment for backyard chooks. The chickens have already become a consideration when I try to plan my future.

This is stupid. And there’s still a month in which they might decide to go home again, or they might get eaten by a fox, or … Who knows, anything could happen. Maybe I’ll decide the neighbours really should be informed after all and they’ll turn up for the first time ever to check on their wandering flocks and will take the chickens home.

If that happened – if the chicks were forced to go home – it would feel like I’d let them down. And from a self-centred point of view, I do want them to stay. I like them being here; I like looking after them; I like wandering around outside to find out where they are and what they’re doing. Just the sight of them makes me happy. Dear little chickies.

Roosters are noisy

I’ve just been doing some reading about poultry, and one article mentioned that having more than one rooster will probably result in each one making more noise than they would if they were the only one.

I don’t like roosters and wouldn’t want to keep one even if I could, but as my neighbours have three or four – a situation I might never see again – I thought it would be interesting to do a little survey of their noise-making:

At the moment two roosters and their harems of chooks are reclining under the deck outside my kitchen window. Another rooster, or maybe two others, are out of sight beyond the coffee trees, probably on the neighbours’ side of the boundary fence.

Over five minutes, ending at 11:52 am, these three or four roosters crowed 27 times.

That’s damn noisy. But it might have been an aberration. As I’m typing now, half an hour later, it’s much quieter. Over the last few minutes there’s been no calling at all. Maybe they’re just exhausted from all that yelling.