Tuesday 26 June 2012

Chicken Terror

On the farm, setbacks can be a heartbreak.
The growing season has a time limit, and there aren't many instances where you can start again if something goes wrong.
Failure is part of the learning process, but sometimes, disaster strikes from where it is least suspected.

Our Gold-Laced Wyandotte chickens are superb foragers.
They used to go far afield in search of food.
But, with the Fox on the prowl, they have been staying closer to home.
Home is safer, but it is also where most of the gardens are.
The main garden is chicken resistant, but it is not chicken proof.
Our birds can fly if they choose to.
They don't choose to fly very often,
but when they decide that the garden is worth foraging in,
they are capable of flying over the fence to get in.
And that is what they did.

Knowing that it was not permitted, the chickens chose to enter the garden when we were away from home.
Now, you may have heard that chickens are good for a garden.
Once seedlings are big enough, many people let their chickens peruse their gardens in search of pests and weeds.
I don't know what kind of chickens will do that, but ours are scratching, scraping, and digging chickens.
They don't want the plants.
They are looking for tender insect morsels and undiscovered seeds.
In doing so, they tear their way through the garden with no regard whatsoever for the growing plants.

The damage was quite severe.
Mature plants cut off at the root, uprooted, stepped on, and torn.
No doubt they cleared up a lot of insects, but we might as well have used agent orange instead.
Besides, they also gobble up worms and toads, which we struggle to keep in the garden.
(There's a fat, toad-filled snake lurking.)

Kira was in tears when she discovered the damage.
A lot of hard work vanished in the space of a few hours
She would have thrown the chickens straight into the pot,
were they not just as important as the gardens.

The plan is to have a large chicken compound in place to let them roam freely,
but within fencing, to both keep them safe, and to protect the fruit and vegetables.
That is still underway, and it may yet be a while before it is fully enclosed.
Even once it is completed, there is always the chance that the chickens will escape.
They may be deterred, but when a chicken sets it's mind to something,
they are stubbornly persistent.

Kira is equally persistent.
The plants that can be saved have been replanted.
The total losses are produce that we won't have this year, unless we buy from someone else.
There is solace, however, knowing that there will still be an adundance of food from our gardens.
And perhaps Kira prefers some vengeance,
knowing that not only can it be served cold,
it may also be served roasted, or in a chicken pot-pie.

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