Sarah Roush

Sarah Roush

Last Sunday, I was standing in the backyard contemplating our chicken coop. It’s a ramshackle affair bordering on eyesore and needs some serious upkeep. Actually; it needs stripped down and redone. Originally built as an oversize chicken tractor, moving the structure was bothersome and the Hubs insisted it become stationary.

Exposure to the elements has not helped the access door to the nesting area and the whole thing needs a good cleaning. The frame is still in decent shape, but when the Hubs decided to use abandoned political signs for siding, the aesthetics took a nosedive.

Granted the signs work surprisingly well for insulation, but the whole thing is tacky. I would have been happier with an advertisement for the Colonel on the sides, at least that might have motivated the hens with laying a few more eggs.

We need to replace most of the wire fencing; it is designed to keep chickens in, not to keep predators out. Indeed, a yet to be determined critter has been excavating a rather impressive entry into the coop. From what I have determined a tunnel of about three feet long has been built to open right beside the water tank from outside the coop.

Stomping on the area above the tunnel has not done much to close the hole, so heavy materials have been stacked on both points of entry to hopefully deter the intruder. I’m not happy about this invasion and the Hubs insistence that it is “probably just a mouse” has caused my eyes to roll around my head. Any person who has ever lived with livestock can tell you a mouse doesn’t need a three-inch hole to gather up loose chicken feed.

Several years ago, our dog Beau, killed a weasel. He proudly dropped it next to his feeding dish, in theory to present a gift to us — in reality, to see how high of a pitch I could reach until I realized it was not a rat nor alive.

After climbing down from the porch-swing I had scrambled atop, Beau watched with great interest (and bemusement) as his gift was cautiously poked and prodded with a fishing pole. It wasn’t the first time that dog judged my actions. Interestingly enough; despite living in the same general area for years, it was the first time I had ever seen a weasel.

We appreciated this odd gift from Beau since earlier in the week, several of our best laying hens had been mysteriously savaged during the night. We missed our friendly Buff Orpington hens who followed us around, being left with surly Leghorns who were more interested in picking fights than being productive.

This weekend, if the weather holds, I am going to shore up the structure a bit, it’s our responsibility to keep animals in our care safe and to provide shelter as well as food and water. I can only hope that my questionable carpentry skills will not create a more ramshackle birdie abode.

At the very least, I can build a new back door for the coop, which will go a long way toward a dry and warm nesting area for our girls. The tunnel will be destroyed or at least thwarted until spring provides an opportunity to relocate the coop.

Ideally, they would be free-range birds, but with the number of predators in the area, they would be easy targets. Chicks will be selected in the spring, and our son Sparky will learn to care for our small flock. Until then, we will make do with what we have and plan for a different kind of spring cleaning.

Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.

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