Friday, July 20, 2012

Dog Run Into Chicken Pasture

We decided to convert an abandoned dog run, which came with our property, into a chicken pasture. But, it is in really bad shape. It is made of hog wire, but that fencing is rusting and detached from the posts in several places. The other bad thing is that hog wire is 2"x4" squares, so lots of rascally rodents could get inside. One positive on the dog run is that it has a giant shade tree growing in the middle. It provides shade until around 2 p.m. It's a deciduous tree, so it will have an open canopy in winter when the hens will want sunshine.

The existing run is well-placed in a far corner of our property. It has enough space along side to allow me to add more pastures to set up a rotation system. All in time.

First thing we had to do was reclaim the run from overgrowth and abandoned lumber, building supplies and other "trash" that the previous homeowner felt he should bless us with. He thought he was leaving junk and trash he didn't want to move. However, I am grateful for the supplies I now don't have to purchase!

The husband had to stoop way over to get in the run, which stands only about 5 ft tall. Using a chainsaw, he hacked down young-growth trees and weedy vines.  I followed along and raked out the area and took a handsaw to what got missed in that first pass. I also had to hack down tree branches from the shade tree and from trees growing along the back fence so that I could access the back of the run from outside. That took us several days just to reclaim inside and outside the run.

Top: You can see the gate to the abandoned dog run. In it, you can see the remaining weedy vines that needed removal after our initial chainsaw hacking job.

Middle top: You can see the rusted, abandoned mower they left us. Thanks. sigh. Gotta figure out that one.

Middle center: You can see the falling down fence panels in the back. Behind those is actually a better fence made of hog wire and barbed wire. Those fence panels will become framing for my raised beds in my garden. A hearty thanks! Also in that area I found abandoned PVC piping, copper plumbing pipes, blue plastic tarps and chicken wire. Also, lots and lots of leaves that will become the beginning of my compost piles.

Middle bottom: The pile of brush we hacked out of the dog run. Lots of overgrowth. Hadn't been a dog in there in years and years.

Bottom: View of the rusted, broken bbq grill they left. Put that out for the garbage. Not sure why they hadn't. sigh.

After cleaning out the actual run (not any of the other stuff), I was able to get inside to begin my conversion. Chickens are prey for flying, digging and climbing predators. So, I needed to make it as safe for my girls as possible. I lined the entire outside perimeter with a minimum of 2 ft of 1/2 in hardware cloth. Then, I lined the interior of the run fencing with 4 ft of 1/2 in hardware cloth. I spent a week attaching the cloth to the fence posts, then sewing together the perimeter panels with the wall panels using steel wire. I also had to sew closed all the seams in the corners where cut pieces came together. In this photo, you can see the two layers of fencing and the skirting around the perimeter. It also is a good picture of the shade tree and how good the run looks now that it's cleared of brush. (You can also see the sagging fencing for the top. Bad condition, but we'll get it fixed in time.)

Ultimately, I plan to line the edge of the perimeter with pavers then top the skirt with dirt and grow grass on top to make a buried skirt. The pavers are to allow space for the mower.

These are my new favorite tools! However, I now know that human predators are a better challenge for my fencing than raccoons or dogs. Stay away, chicken thieves!


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