The fresh eggs and “fowl” entertainment are great, but free range urban chicken farming has some drawbacks. To keep the chickens in your yard rather than your neighbors you may need to get creative with fencing. I’d love to have a back yard straight out of a Sunset magazine photo shoot, with a mega bucks Martha Stewart style chicken coop, but I don’t have that kind of budget. I’m slowly working on improving things as I learn about chicken tending. Right now that involves a lot of wire.
Here is Laverne showing off that she can scale 5 foot fences.
Given her druthers she’d like to be roosting in the neighbor’s tree rather than hanging around on the ground. Wing clipping and fence topping to the rescue.
By cutting a 6″ wide strip of hardware cloth and stapling it to the wooden fence there is no longer a solid area for her to flutter up to.
Originally I thought I’d keep the hens contained to the perimeter of the yard. There is a “chunnel” along two sides of the fence. It is about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. The width is enough for me to walk through, or push a small wheelbarrow through. Hopefully it is tight enough to discourage hawks from swooping down on the hens. You can see it in the photo above and below. Here are the girls looking longingly at the house while we enjoy viewing them from our kitchen table.
As well as providing us with fresh colorful eggs, they are very fun to watch. Also eating grass is good for their health so we started letting them out in the yard more. Our current program consists of letting them loose in the yard from sunrise to about 9:30 am. At that time they are put behind the fence in the more confined area. The “chunnel” leads them to the big area shown below which is under a lilac and maple tree, again offering some protection from hawks. Later in the day – 4:30 or so – we let them back into the yard to eat more grass before they go to roost for the night.
I use to raise vegetables in the back yard. Now with free range chickens the vegetables are fenced off in tiny little plots. This is a scene from the winter, so there is not much growing. The girls have access to the areas in the off season to scratch up bugs and help fertilize. The first plot is surrounded by chicken wire with PVC posts. A broody hen has proven capable of getting over it in her desperation to get back to the nest, but usually they don’t bother.
This small plot below is surrounded by green poultry wire. It’s only 3′ tall so I can do most of my gardening over the sides once it’s planted. But I leave a side available to open for easy access.
In this location we use to have a lovely bed of violets. It is also next to one of the chooks favorite dust bath areas. I’ve replanted violets in the front yard so I can enjoy them, and for now covered this little patch with hardware cloth so they can avoid being scratched to death.
Under the chimney is a great place for the chooks to hang out when it’s raining. Here I’ve used some white plastic lattice fencing bent around the area to keep them in.
I keep dreaming of a more attractive way to keep the birds contained yet free ranging. Every time I start talking about enclosing them more my husband points out that I wouldn’t be happy. Much of the joy we get from keeping chickens is watching their antics as they cavort around the yard.