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.
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.
Besides 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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?