So we did a quick little double-project over the weekend, running into Monday. The first part was to level the paths, taking out enough dirt to enable the gate to still open and then pave it with bricks. Luckily we had a massive pile of bricks that Gaë (the previous owner) left us – so we had enough to cover the whole area. Markus jumped in and helped, in between playing with the chooks, checking for eggs, climbing on the shed roof and who knows what else he does – but he helped a lot clearing the paths and laying the bricks while I carted on more bricks and packed them too, so we completed it all in record time. It is so much easier walking on the bricks than sliding around in the slippery clay mud. I know over time the chooks and ducks will mess on the brick path and work area, but we can easily just spray and brush it off – the surrounding citrus trees will enjoy the nitrogen-rich water.
The second part was to build a lean-to shelter over the feed and preparation area. Every time it rained, the lids of the feed containers would be filled with water, and as you spin the lids off, water splashes everywhere – which wasn’t very enjoyable on a cold winter’s morning. Not to mention sliding around in mud while you do it – but luckily that has been addressed. Working in the rain wasn’t too comfortable either. We could easily have moved the feed containers around and into Gaë’s old shed, but that’s a good 25m walk (one way) from the coops. It’s just not practical to do it when you have a bunch of hungry chooks and ducks jumping up and down for food. We have become quite efficient with the feed stored right next to the one coop, less than 10 meters from the other coop. So two posts in the ground, some strong cross struts running off the back of Gaë’s shed, half a day of labour and “voila!” we have a rain shelter. I’m actually looking forward to the weekend’s predicted rain to enjoy doing the prep-work under shelter. Thinking forward, that area under roof may be quite useful in summer too – it’s on the shade side of the shed, so it should be quite cool in summer. Maybe on those 40C days we can wet the bricks and they can hang out there in the cool shade.
Come to think of it, it was actually a triple project, but it didn’t all happen over the weekend… The deep litter in the mansion coop’s run was totally soaked too. The shade cloth over the roof was good for summer, but it was useless in the winter rain. So when I got the sheeting for the shelter, I got a few extra sheets for the mansion too. Earlier in the week, amidst squalls of ice cold rain, I replaced the shade net with proper roofing. I left a thin vent slit open at the top, for warm air to escape, so it should still be cool enough in summer. So now at least the deep litter won’t get soaked and stinky – they can work it to their heart’s content. They’re not in there that much – basically only in the mornings before we let them out – but mind you, that is becoming quite late on those icy frosty mornings.
As we adapt to life with chooks and ducks, we slowly make these changes to make life easier for ourselves and healthier for them. Live and learn. Observe and react. Permaculture in action.