Deterring Hens

Our curious chickens have safe, fenced acres to explore with huge areas to scratch and peck to their hearts’ delight. They should be content with that, right?

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While the entire veggie garden is off-limits due to its own fence, the ongoing struggle to keep our hens out of certain Coppertop garden beds has entered a new chapter. Sometimes their exploring spirit gains them my wrath when they jump into tender beds. It only takes about five minutes for destruction to occur in some of the tenderest areas where perennials are springing to life, and it devastates me each time. I’ve written about ways we’ve managed to ward off the pesky girls during their free range afternoons here, mainly noting black plastic utensils and low barriers. Additionally, in the warm, dry summer we’ve run the sprinkler over certain beds while the hens are on the prowl since they avoid that devil sprinkler.

The current conundrum:  We don’t run the sprinkler during rainy months, the chickens jump the barriers to get to choice bits, and they have overcome their hesitancy to forage in beds lined with plastic utensils by simply knocking the utensils over.

Last summer I began to cover the raised dahlia beds with black bird netting in addition to using the low barriers made of wood slats. I use the netting successfully to keep birds out of the strawberry beds, and sure enough, the hens didn’t even try to jump into the covered dahlia beds! It seems that bird feet and netting are in opposition. This is the stuff I’m referring to, available everywhere:

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As the dahlias grew taller, I moved the netting and wound it on the ground among the dahlia plants. The netting is barely noticeable last August on the soil in the bed on the right. The chickens stayed out. Success!

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Also, for the last few months I’ve kept the new raised bed by the Chicken Mansion covered in black netting, and the bed has remained secure. Hooray!

This week I’ve been cleaning up the six main perennial beds, pictured below in a photo from June 2015. After clearing leaves, clipping back last year’s growth, pruning clematis, weeding, and filling the wheelbarrow five times with compostable goodies, I laid a piece of  netting over the bare earth and plants in each bed, allowing some slack for growth. The girls are behaving themselves and all is once again copacetic at Coppertop. I have hope for beautiful, flowery seasons ahead.

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