Evie Versus the Chickens

 

 

I thought I’d give you a little update on Evie versus the chickens! We think we’ve worked out an almost perfect solution, and it’s really thanks to all of you; for I did indeed listen, and I read all your comments, I took everything in and we built a fence. Something simple, yet splendidly fulfilling in its execution, for a variety of reasons.

It sounds so straightforward, doesn’t it? Just put up a fence and contain the chickens. Of course, it really wasn’t that simple, there were other factors to consider. Most important of course was the welfare of our feathered friends; we obviously wanted to keep them as they are very much a part of our lifestyle here, but then there was Evie to consider as well. We adore her, she is a part of the family and she literally comes with us everywhere.

Whilst Bentley is content to lie in the sun, often by the front door, Evie rarely leaves our side.

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She always goes with Roddy to let the chickens out in the morning; and if I am working in the garden she is never too far away; even if I am just hanging out the laundry, she will be there – unless she sees a cat! Then she’s off, quick as a flash; Rory’s her mate and he’ll just roll over and play with her, but Clara is a different kettle of fish. Not quite so familiar with the interspecie rulebook, she can’t stand the suspense and always makes the mistake of running. Evie, of course, thinks this means a game of CHASE, and bedlam ensues until Clara either escapes up a tree or climbs onto a table. Trees are worst for Evie, for she’s left staring quizzically into a mass of branches where nothing can be seen; her little body quivers, and it’s easy to imagine her wondering why on earth she’s unable to climb trees and what it is that cats have that she doesn’t.

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IMG_4724Besides the chickens and Evie,  there was also the garden to consider. I love our beautiful park-like lawns, punctuated with ancient trees and the hazel and cob hedgerow. We didn’t want to contain the chickens in a small run, and we have always enjoyed them roaming free. But after several weeks of hard thinking, planning, and a trial run with a mock fence to see what it would look like, we made a decision; we would fence one large part of it. It’s a big area, more like a small paddock really. For the fencing itself we chose something that was as inconspicuous as possible. Fortunately for us there has always been a solid concrete post and rail fence along the middle of the garden and so we made this one side of the chicken sanctuary. All we had to do here was add chicken wire, it is totally hidden by the hedgerow on both sides and here you would never know anything has been changed.

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Two of the other sides of their new home are bordered by the old stone walls that surround our property, which meant that only one end of the enclosure is new and on show. Across this we ran some weathered wooden posts and a simple matt grey fencing which blends well against all the garden colours, and this now makes the Chicken Garden, and it’s as delightful as the name suggests, even at this time of  year when the trees are still bare.

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We are happy, it’s a good state of affairs, compounded by some carefully considered bonuses as we have now been able to remove the fence from around the vegetable-garden, and take down the picket-fence which surrounded the terrace and pool; this was a previous measure we had to take to keep bare feet away from chicken droppings because we got really bored of children running towards the house with those dreaded words, “I stepped in chicken poo,” – hopefully that will now be a thing of the past.

You would think it would be a win/win situation all round but alas the chickens are not amused! Fritz walked along beside Roddy all the time he was working on the fence on Sunday, clucking at this and that, disapproving away with every hammered nail and mend of mesh, always with a ‘humph’ in his voice and overall he seemed most unimpressed. We’ve tried explaining to them all time and time again that this is not a punishment, and it is because we love them. We’ve expounded the advantages of safety, and the security of an Evie-free zone, but the silly things either don’t listen or they don’t understand!

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After all, it’s not even as if they are in a small enclosure; they still have masses of space. Most chickens would die of ‘enclosure-envy’ if they could see our flock’s new run; they’ve got daffodils (which in summer will give way to meadow flowers); they have masses of shelter; they have 1000 year old trees to give them a sense of history; there is the old leaf pile for scratching around in and they have the old stone walls for snails and spiders to forage on. They still get one side of the persimmon tree, so that they can continue to gorge themselves on windfalls in the autumn, and they have the two peach trees in their patch as well. They have shade and sun, some impressive architectural details, the ancient bird-bath, and a 12th century church as part of their view. Surely it doesn’t get much better than this in chicken world?

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Whilst fencing the very furthest point of the garden we had to abut the old stone wall to the east of us. To attach the fence to the wall Roddy had to remove vast masses of ivy to get to the stone behind it, hacking away like some explorer discovering an ancient Mayan city. Behind the jungle  we discovered that the ivy in fact covers masses and masses of old abandoned building stone; someone at some stage must have left it all there, and we wonder whether there was once a garden building of some sort here? There were certainly two entrances as you can see, the lintels over the top have always fascinated me , it looks as if they are two long lengths of dovecote.

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Pondering the origin of this wall made me think a little more about the walls I see everyday whilst walking or driving. Stone walls are a valued and attractive feature of many landscapes across the country. The present landscape we live in really is a result of human interaction with the natural environment over many, many centuries.

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Some of the stone walls locally have a history going back to the 2nd millennium BC and have been constructed during a number of distinct periods. Although they may have their own intrinsic archaeological interest, a large part of their historical value comes from the evidence they provide about their origins particularly where the stone used reflects the underlying geology, such as where we are which is sandstone country. As Roddy remarked succinctly at the end of a weary Sunday, sandstone is a lot easier to drill into for attachment-points than the hard pink granite of his home island.

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Anyway, I digress – back to our ivy-clad wall and I have a question for you. Would you leave it as is, or would you pull away and remove all the ivy which will in turn uncover all the old stones and the original wall behind as well, thus exposing the wall in its entirety? If we did this we were thinking we could then use the extra stones to build a low wall about a metre in front of the main wall and make one long low raised bed all the way along. Of course it’s a big job but what would you do? Would you leave it as is?  The ivy is certainly pretty and causes no harm at the moment, or would you take it all away and reveal the huge length of ancient wall?

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73 thoughts on “Evie Versus the Chickens

  • I think I would pull the ivy away and discover the wall. The excess stone would be a chore but you seem to have a plan for it already and summer will be here before you know it!!

    • Hi Alanna, yes there is so much excess stone, but we have a while to sort it all out so I think we will get to work on the ivy and see what happens, just hope we don’t find any snakes!

  • The ivy could eventually destroy the wall if left. It caused a lot of damage to an old hangar at the end of our barn as well as to a garden shed. With us being there for only three months of the summer, it took over. The stone walls of the barn look much prettier without the ivy and provide a lovely backdrop to other less invasive plants.

    • Hi Gill, I am hoping that the wall is in good condition underneath, no doubt there will be pointing work needed, but hopefully we will h ave caught it in time, thanks for telling me about your hangar, I am determined we are going to remove it. Susan x

  • What about calling in an architect to see what the best recommendations may be. Ivy can destroy the wall, and with so many periods of history involved, it probably needs some TLC! (tender loving care)

  • Stone walls are beautiful architectural accents, I vote for the wall exposed. Besides ivy is basically a destructive weed.

  • Well done with your solution to the dog vs. chickens conundrum! I would remove the ivy, also. Can’t wait for updates on this project if you decide to tackle it.

    • Hi Anne, Thank you! I think we have been more than convinced that the ivy has to go, the forecast for the weekend is lovely so it’s a job we may well start, I will of course keep you updated! Susan x

  • Oh my goodness ! So wonderful ! I’d live out there with the chickens !!!! I’d expose the wall…..ivy grows back if you don’t like it….but so amazingly fascinating !!! Thank you so very much for sharing your little piece of heaven on earth . 1,000 year old trees ? ,👏

    • Hi Jacqueline, I am sure the chickens will get used to their area, which is just slightly smaller than before, I’d happily put a tent in there and live there and yes the tree at the furthest point of the garden is assumed to be over 1000 years old, it’s trunk is enormous. The ivy is going! So many people have convinced us, we shall probably start work on it this weekend as the forecast is for warm springlike weather! Susan x

  • Love the chickens, the wall and the animals. HATE ivy. Remove it, remove it again next year and maybe by the third year you’ll be ivy free. Good luck!

    • Hi Kathy, thank you, good advice and we have been convinced, yes we shall remove the ivy and thank you for reminding me that we will have to keep our eye on this and keep removing it. Susan x

  • Hi Susan. Firstly, great news for the chickens! You’ve done the exact right thing in my humble opinion! It’s a win-win and Fritz will eventually come to love his new country estate!
    Regarding the wall, I would definitely pull all the ivy away. We discovered a similar situation with a wall adjoining our property when we moved here. When I began pulling the ivy away, it revealed that it had got under the stone caps, amongst the main stones, thus loosening them. It had got to the stage where it was partly holding the wall up! Ivy just gets bigger and stronger, so a thin windey shoot will eventually get thicker and stronger and will push the stones loose. Another reason to remove it is that someone, at some point in history, spent a lot of time and energy building that beautiful stone wall and how lovely it would be to reveal it again and acknowledge its part in the history of your garden! And a great idea to create a raised border with any excess stones. Go for it!!

    • Hi Marian, Thank you! Fritz will sort himself out, he really has nothing to complain about!!! This is what worries me, that we will find the wall is damaged, but I guess until we start removing it we will never know, so far the wall looks good, but I am sure there will be some surprises in store. The forecast looks good so we may well start this at the weekend. Watch this space! Susan x

  • I would love to see a wall built with the lovely old stones. A place to sit and admire your beautiful property. Bring the history in view again.

    • Hi Susan, the wall partly borders the vegetable garden and so it would be nice to be able to sit there and snack on some fresh tomatoes, I love eating them warm straight from the vine or some grapes. We have been convinced to remove it, so watch this space! Susan x

  • Lovely to hear the ‘situation’ nicely solved. I am the one voice that says leave the ivy …..I love it and keep mine under control with a good clip twice a year, it is such a wonderful sanctuary for so many nesting birds, plus an added bonus that it is probably holding my old fence up. Susie x

    • Hi Susie, yes the situation is resolved and I am so happy to be able to open the front door and not worry about Evie. It’s funny, I think it’s an English thing to like ivy, but I think we have been convinced to remove it, my worry now is that we will find that it is holding the wall up in places, we shall have to go very slowly and see what happens, watch this space! Susan x

  • Love all of the comments! 🙂 Except………I don’t hate ivy at all. I think it would probably be best mostly removed from the wall, as it may not be so good for the wall, the planting boxes sound divine, and still smiling from Evie’s darling expressions……….. but back to the ivy………..What if you kept a main stem and formed some wire into some brilliant – I trust you all to decide on what – topiary sculpture?
    Obviously I spiked my coffee this morning 🙂

    • Hi Jamie, Whatever you had in your coffee this morning, I want some tomorrow morning! No I don’t hate ivy either, I love the topiary idea, but my head screams, “more work” it’s enough just keep the garden semi weed free without sculptures needing trimming!!! Evie is happy, Bentley is always happy and the chickens, well they will just have to get over their grump! Susan x

    • Hi Laura, yes we like ivy, hence our uncertainty at removing it, but we have been convinced by everyone’s comments and I think it will be going, it’s a job we will most likely start this weekend. Susan x

  • Hi, definitely remove the ivy, it is bad for any wall. I have just spent the last two weeks repointing our garden wall ( not finished yet ) which has been undermined by ivy. The raised bed sounds a great idea, good luck.

    • Hi Jane, thank you, I fear that we will probably end up doing the same as you. I believe the ivy has been there for years and who knows what damage has been done underneath, we will have to go carefully that’s for sure, but following all this fabulous advice, we will go ahead and remove it. Susan x

  • Ivy needs to be removed, it is bad for the structure of walls. I did want an old stone wall in our other property, my mother-in-law gave me a package of seeds for starting a “stone wall”. She was such a joy and honor to know.

    • Hi, I do love stone walls and we have been convinced, it does need to be removed. I fear the wall may have already suffered underneath in places, no doubt it will be a slow long job, but hopefully one we can start this weekend. Susan x

  • Let me see, you said, “We’ve expounded the advantages of safety, and the security….but the silly things either don’t listen or they don’t understand!” Sounds just like many (chicken) children. They don’t listen or don’t (care to) understand when you tell them something is in their best interests :).

    As for the ivy, as Gill and others mentioned above, it will eventually ruin the wall anyway, so perhaps taking it down is the best idea. Trust me, it will grow back if you give it 10 minutes.

    • Hi Mary, you’ve hit the nail on the head, they just don’t want to listen! As for the ivy, we’ve been convinced, it h as to go, I think as the forecast is fabulous for the weekend this might be a job which we will start, treading very carefully for we have no idea what state parts of the wall are in. Hopefully it will be finished before it starts growing back again! Susan x

  • I think your use of the term “chicken sanctuary” conveys the affirmation that you did the right thing.
    On the wall, if it’s pierre seche, then ivy should’t do harm because there’s no mortar. But I can see why you would want to continue the line of stones there.

    • Hi, no it’s not a dry stone wall hence our worries that the ivy may well have done huge amounts of damage to the wall already, it has been there for a long time, the parts we can see are fine, but I am sure there are hidden problems, no doubt it will be a long job!

      • We get the occasional scorpion here and certainly snakes but having lived in countries where one had to be careful every time we walked out to feed the horses, always wearing boots and having on several occasions encountered rattle snakes and coral snakes we are all fairly well used to snake territory and looking out for them, even the children know the rules. That being said, I still hate them but they don’t scare me if that makes sense. We have had workmen here, removing old stone from other parts of the garden when we built the pond who literally wouldn’t pick up a stone they were so scared! We’ve actually never seen a snake on our property here, but there is always a first time!

    • Hi, you have a very valid point and we have been convinced, we need to see the beauty in the old stones, I also need to find out how old it is, I shall have to speak to the elderly villagers and see if anyone can give me some clues. Susan x

  • It sounds as if your chickies now have the ritziest of Ritzes in which to live. Well done.
    Looking forward to your pictures of the de-ivied walls. I see so many pictures of picturesque houses in France and wonder “don’t the people know what ivy will do to walls over time??” And the stones also, as you know, help keep the garden warmer, as a heat sink.

    • Hi Emm, the chickens don’t know how lucky they are!!! Regarding the ivy, I think it’s a European thing, we just love things climbing over walls! A lot of the pictures you see may well be Virgina Creeper as opposed to ivy, we have one building here completely covered in it, it does no harm compared to common English ivy. However, we have taken in all the comments and yes the English ivy on the wall will go! I see a very busy weekend ahead! Susan x

  • Adding my affirmative nods to what others have expressed: expose the stones and wall! Ivy is retry, but invasive and destructive. Forgive me, Roddy if I’m creating more work for you!

  • Another fascinating post about your beautiful animals and the garden…thank you! It looks like you have devised a wonderful solution to the Evie/chicken problem. My only question is, how will Evie do when you are working or playing within the chicken sanctuary and she cannot be right there with you?

    English ivy is a real problem here in Portland. It grows everywhere and takes over, driving out other plants, killing trees, ruining stone walls and structures. For the last 20 years, it has been officially deemed “invasive” and so no one is supposed to plant it. Throughout that time, there have been many ivy-pulling parties in the nearby urban forest because the ivy is killing the (very-old) virgin firs and indigenous plants there. Everyone has been encouraged to remove any ivy from their gardens. We live on a 3/4-acre lot that was almost entirely covered with ivy when we arrived 30 years ago, and we have, slowly but surely, removed all of it but a patch that is holding up a slope (we’ve been searching for an effective substitute for years.) By the way, it can be lots of fun to remove ivy, particularly in the spring when the ground is wet and soft, because you can pull out a whole long vine and its offshoots and roots, all at once, and that is very satisfying. So, pull out rather than cut the ivy, as much as possible, but pull gently around your stone wall. And be very careful not to drop seeds as you remove the pulled ivy pile from your garden. Have fun!!

    • Hi Leslie, fabulous comment thank you and so much advice. I have been doing a lot of research on the best methods of removing ivy and pulling it out certainly appears to be by far the best method, as you say the ground is soft at the moment, can you therefore guess what we will be doing this weekend! I don’t believe it has done much damage to the wall, but we shall find out soon! With regards to Evie, if we are in the chicken garden she comes in with us, when we are there, she looks at the chickens and walks past them, the picture of innocence. It is only when she is left to her own devices and there is no one in sight that her natural instincts get the better of her, so hopefully this is a perfect solution. Have a lovely weekend and I hope Spring is showing signs of life in Oregon. Susan x

  • May I please come live with your chickens? It sounds and looks absolutely lovely. I would definitely pull the ivy off of the sandstone if for no other reason than it will eventually cause the stone to deteriorate with time.

    • Of course Carol Ann, there is plenty of room and they have a pretty decent coop too! I think project ivy starts tomorrow, thanks to all of these comments we are convinced, it really helps to ask other people and I know it is the right thing to do. Have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • Hello again, Susan. Re your exchange above with Francetaste: Are any of the snakes that may live in your area poisonous? Since your climate is similar to ours, I had assumed that like the snakes in our area (which are actually helpful to gardeners), those in your area are not poisonous.

    • Hi Leslie, yes our snakes are very helpful and beneficial to the environment being both predator and prey. I have never worried about them and as I said I have never seen one actually on our property. They are generally harmless here with one or two exceptions and even these would only be really dangerous to some susceptible people. These two are the Viper Aspis and the common Adder. I give full credit to this information to http://www.planetepassion.eu/snakes-in-France/Snakes-of-France.html
      I know not to put my hand in a crack in the wall, apart from that I never give it a second thought. I am hoping we do see a snake tomorrow as we tackle the ivy, I shall have my camera at the ready, but I am sure we will not be so lucky! Susan x

    • Your lovely chickens are so lucky to have their own estate. I would definitely remove the ivy to expose the old stone. The ivy will regrow even if it’s not wanted.

      • Hi Sally, thank you, we think they are lucky chickens too and they are now much happier! Project remove ivy is already underway, started earlier this morning and so far so good, I will post some photos tomorrow I hope! have a lovely weekend, Susan x

    • Yes so happy to have found a solution and fingers crossed it’s working! The fence that we originally had around the terrace was about 2′ high, it worked a treat, not once did they hop over and I cannot tell you how nice it was to be able to walk on the terrace in bear feet without worrying! Enjoy the sunshine this weekend 🙂

  • Old stone walls are just beautiful. If you can’t take it down how about replacing the ivy
    with some beautiful climbing roses that can just ramble over the wall?

    • Hi Mary Ann, today we started what has become known as “project ivy” and oh it looks amazing already, I can see so much of the wall. It’s going to be a very long job, but it’s underway!!! Have a lovely weekend, Susan x

  • I love your garden. Along with most of your other readers I would remove the ivy. The stone wall is so beautiful. I would be inclined to grow some clematis Montana along a stretch of it, it would look so pretty against all that mellow stone, but would not be as invasive as the ivy. Pleased that you have sorted out the problem with Evie and the chooks😃

    • Hi Julie, thank you, Project Ivy, is now well and truly underway. I love the idea of planting clematis along some of it. It is west facing so that should be ideal. Evie is happy, the chickens are happy, contentment all round! Have a lovely Sunday, Susan x

  • Yay Evie, and the chickens, …………and the bare feet!!!
    Regarding the ivy – I love ivy, but I also think it may be best taken away from the wall.
    What if??……….you were to train a main stock into a topiary? Something brilliant – I trust that you will come up with something – some wire, a lot of family voting……….. Maybe a rendition of Bentley? Yes, that’s it. 🙂

    • An Ivy topiary, wow good job we have lots of children who are great artists because that gene has totally bypassed me! But I am going to google just what we could make, wouldn’t that be fun

      • For decades until about 30 years ago, there was a glorious 20′ tall (or so) ivy topiary in the shape of a bear in the foothills of Mount Hood in the Oregon Cascades. It was an amazing sight that we all looked forward to seeing on our way to and from skiing.

      • Hi Leslie, how incredible and how huge, what happened to it? I have been looking, briefly, at topiaries on Google, some of them are astounding! Actually I quite like the simple pyramid shapes, I shall have to have a good look tomorrow and see if we could do something, what a challenge that would be! So many ideas if only there were many more hours in the day!

      • I don’t remember (if I ever knew) why the bear topiary was dismantled after so many years. I believe it was either because the property on which it stood was sold to a buyer who didn’t want it and/or because of the bad reputation English ivy had by that time. No, I was not suggesting that you replicate it…although I suspect that you, Roddy and your crew can do anything to which you set your minds!

      • Thanks Leslie, but I think this one might be beyond me, I’d actually try something but as it’s against the wall I am not sure it will stand out enough, it would probably just get lost in the shade of the overhanging trees and look a mess!

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