Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Adaptation Measures

I've written before about our chickens. Now there are a lot more. It has gotten to a point when sometimes I get alarmed by an unfamiliar specimen (a former chick all grown up). I guess I also was pretty used to chick “die-offs”, during the rainy season, that the population explotion has gotten me baffled. Considering we don't feed them anything, and don't cage them (except for the only male and one companion, because he keeps crowing at ungodly hours), they are all pretty healthy.

They still, however, topple my potted seedlings over, and scatter mulch around. When they are particularly frenzied, they can run little plants over and step on them like they mean it.

I've been trying to find ways to chicken-proof my seedlings. An urgent goal is to build a chicken house and chicken tractors. In the meantime, we've had to find ways. One is by enclosing the baby plants in cages. This cage is covered with a dry coconut shell to keep out too much sun, and to make the rain or water more gentle as it falls.

Another recent experiment was to put some plants on a bed of soil (fresh compost-- chicken magnets), and cover the blank spaces with empty half coconut shells (of which we have an obscene supply of, due to food consumption). I tamped the shells down with my feet.

That worked fine, but they need to be supplemented by sticks. I put in this small patch with stevia, some amaranth or pepper (I can't tell), tomato, and okra. I put sticks over the stevia and half-heartedly, over the rest. I did this as the sun was setting, to have a bit of a test-run with chicken behavior, and still have the night to recover little plants if they have damage from the chickens. Here's the test-run:

One shell (with bits of old coconut under) was turned over. Oops! Never underestimate the leg power of chickens. If they sense they want something, they'll throw anything about. Another family messing about with my set-up:

The next day I discovered that the morning gave renewed strength and will to the chickens. All but the stevia and one amaranth/pepper were strewn on the bed and beyond hope, and the shells were reassembled. The ones with sticks survived, showing lazy me that sticks arranged teepee-like are needed to deter chickens.

A cool thing about this coconut arrangement is that if you have a shitty watering pot (like mine) with no attachment that breaks the water down into droplets, you can aim the strong flow at the tops of the coconut shells, where they will trickle down into their bases. No worries about knocking sensitive seedlings out.

This is not meant to be permanent, however, and after a chicken-hotel is constructed, and the plants get big enough to mulch massively, the shells will come off. In the meantime, they look nice.

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