So after we had the hedges and the grass all cut back recently we decided to move the chickens out of the orchard and into the field. There were a couple of reasons behind this. Firstly the grass in the orchard needs some time to recover from the girls pecking at it and creating dust baths so we’re going to reseed it and give it a bit of tlc. Secondly, it was a right pain trying to mow around the chicken pen as there wasn’t really enough space to move the electric fence easily so you had to mow a bit, then move it, then mow a bit then move it etc. If they are in the field then we can just mow half the field, move them permanently and then mow the rest. Thirdly, we were actually missing having the orchard as a place to spend time in. We really liked the orchard and had a couple of barbecues there last summer and wanted to get back to it being more of a social area to spend time in as a family. So our plan was simple, move their Eglu and then remove the fence and herd them into the field. We figured that the chickens would follow their home as it moved. By gosh we were wrong. So first we moved the Eglu, the chickens were mildly interested in what we were doing but mainly focused on pecking at the area where the Eglu had once stood. C and I tried to bribe them to come out of the gate in their fence using meal worms. No luck. So we started taking down the fence, again they showed a mild interest in what we were doing but then just decided to explore the rest of the orchard.
So my father in law began to mow the orchard to even up the grass where the fence had been removed. Admittedly they did move away from the mower, but only a little bit and still stayed determinedly in the orchard. By now they were getting a bit more confident and were exploring the full reach of the orchard, but still stopping short when it came to moving towards the field. Now we had kept Jessie inside whilst we did this as we thought she’d be a bit of a hindrance (I did want to keep C away too as she was equally a hindrance but you can’t really lock a toddler in a cage) but we then thought we could use her to help encourage the chickens into the field. She has only seen the chickens from behind the electric fence before and so we figured she would relish the idea of chasing them. If only we could manage to get her to chase them in the right direction. The result…she had a mild interest in the chickens but was more interested in exploring the orchard. We tried leaving them in the hope they would go by themselves but we were worried about them not managing to get home before it got dark and we know there are foxes about (hence the electric fence). Eventually we used all of our resources (me, my husband, my father in law, the dog and some netting) to try to trap one or two at a time so we could then carry them to the field. I don’t have any photos of this because I didn’t have a free hand to take photos! We managed to get five up there but Dorothy (remember her, the elusive let’s hide our eggs chicken) decided to hide in the hedge between the orchard and the field (which she couldn’t get through because of the fence). We ended up leaving her and coming back a couple of times and we eventually managed to pick her up and get her there but it was hard work. This is their new home in the field.
They seem to have settled in quite nicely. Once they’ve been there for a couple of weeks then we’ll give them the chance to free range even further into the field.
So, the weather has been rubbish for the first week of June. We’ve had torrential rain, hail and heavy winds. There have been some glimpses of sun but not enough for my liking. Whilst the rain has been great for the garden the wind has unfortunately caused some damage. We’ve had the ornamental quince tree which is up against the coal shed come away slightly to hang into the drive. We will need to remove this tree anyway as it is where we will hopefully have bifolding doors so that’s just another job to add to the to do list. However, the wind has given us a bigger problem. A fallen tree branch. In the field. On our wonderful new fence.
Now how did we discover this? Well on coming back from our evening chicken check we stopped to chat to our neighbour at the end of the drive who mentioned that some of our sheep had escaped earlier today into his field but that he thought they had gone back now. Cue my racing to the field to count the sheep. Right at the back of the field I came across a sheep who was behind our fence and between our field and the farmers field at the back.
Unfortunately this has not been the first instance of sheep escaping this week. My husband and I erected a barrier of sorts to cover the where the tree had pressed down on the fence.
However, the barrier has proven pretty useless as we’ve had to chase sheep back in twice since then. Including this evening. In the rain. Not fun. We’ve now tried using twine to tie up the barbed wire and the fence together to prevent gaps but as we’re not entirely sure how they’ve escaped it’s been pretty hard to be sure we’ve got the problem solved. Fingers crossed our temporary patch job works as I don’t fancy chasing sheep around a field every evening!
So yesterday evening I was going about my usual evening chores, topping up food and water for the chickens and sheep and then watering the lazy beds and raised beds when I stopped to do an assessment of what seedlings had sprouted so far (no sign of anything from the cauliflower and pumpkin bed). I heard a noise that was kind of like a crack, my first thought was that one of the chickens had encountered the electric fence. I started walking towards their fence when what should I encounter but two deer just behind the recreation area. It was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen. They quickly startled and ran in opposite directions, one through the hedge and across the road and the other back towards the chickens. This was the one I followed. She went through the hedge at the back of the orchard and into the field and was then trapped in the fenced off area where the lazy beds are. Then she leapt over the fence and into the main bit of the field, she ran around the edge of the field and finally after much deliberation leapt over the fence at the back and went through into the farmers field behind. So it seems the fences may be sheep proof but not deer proof. I only managed to get a couple of pictures when she was quite far away which J is going to try and blow up for me as obviously I wasn’t expecting to be taking photos at that point. It’s moments like this that I love living in the countryside, nothing makes you feel more alive than seeing the glory of nature up close.