Purdy-ing Up the Chicken Yard – Again

Remember when I decided to make the chicken yard pretty last year?  Well I’m at it again.  This time I went with planters that are up high and out of ‘chicken reach’ so they should be pretty safe.

I didn’t want to spend a lot for this little project since it is just a chicken yard and I am a self-proclaimed bargainista, but I still wanted it to be cute.  I’d seen wall planters made of various materials and realized they were just simple pockets of fabric.  I’m not a sewer so I brainstormed what might provide an inexpensive, already sewn fabric pocket.  Then the light bulb went off – a fabric shoe organizer!

I snagged this one at Fred Meyer for around $10.  I only needed 4 pockets but I figured it the idea panned out I could always make more for other spots too.  It was an added bonus that it was a cool grey fabric rather than the typical canvas ones I’ve seen that would show dirt immediately.

Luckily each row was exactly 4 pockets!  I cut off one row, leaving the seam and trim at the bottom.  From there I cut down the center of the stitching on the trim between each pocket to create 4 individual pockets.

I filled each with dirt and a plant while on skype with my mom on a sunny afternoon and then recruited the Hubs to help me hang them.  We folded over the top section of fabric for a bit more strength and just screwed them into the post using deck screws.

Although the screws are noticeable from the side angle, they blend in when you look at the planters from the front of the yard which is the typical way they will be seen.  Plus as the plants grow they should help hide them even more.  Hopefully they will have enough time to really fill in and start to trail over before the season wraps.

I also decided to give the block planters at the bottom of the posts another try.  The canvas curtains I made last summer didn’t survive well so this time we used scrap clear panels left over from building the green house.  It keeps the sight lines open for both the cluckers and the dogs, but prevents the chickens from decimating the plants.

The chickens were not to pleased with this innovation and kept trying to  peck at the leaves through the plastic!  They eventually gave up and went on about their clucking business elsewhere in the yard.  This time around I filled the blocks with mint, transplanted from the rain garden where it ended up after being in the herb container 2 summers ago.  Those who have grown mint, know it is super hardy so it can take some tough love, will return year after year and should spread to fill in a bit more.  I will have to watch that it doesn’t spread out from the blocks but it’s easy enough to remove if I catch it early so I’m not to worried.  Plus it will help keep things smelling pretty – because this is a chicken yard and there is always a constant supply of “fertilizer”!

Because we used scrap panels each is a bit different size so the panels don’t all line up with each other.  It doesn’t really bother me in person but looking at this image I really notice it.  If it still bugs me in a few weeks I’ll have the hubs cut the two larger ones down to match.

I put another clear panel on the front of the yard and added marigolds there for a bit of color.  Now if I could just get that darn walkway covered with gravel like I’ve been planning this space might start to really look complete.  Hopefully that will happen before the end of the season, but if not it will be on the list again next summer. 🙂

Snow Day!

stoliToday is Tequila’s birthday, which coincidentally coincides with National Love Your Pet Day (AKA – everyday in the DBDT household)!  Although we didn’t do anything special to celebrate, I did take a break from photography work to play in the snow with the herd.

tequilaHere in Alaska we don’t get many “snow days” off from work or school because life continues on no matter how much snow there is in this region.  Luckily, President’s Day provided a perfect opportunity to pretend that it was a snow day and stay home – only venturing out as far as the yard for some fun.

Each of the fur babies has a favorite toy to play with outside.  Tequila loves her frisbee, Stoli has a stuffed soccer ball with handles and Brinley is ALL ABOUT HER TENNIS BALL!  It’s a good thing we have a long driveway where I can use the ball chucker to throw it down the drive way for her.

run3Today Stoli decided it was more fun to try to steal her ball than play with his own.  But try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to beat her to the ball, or get her to drop it by bouncing around her.  Eventually he gave up and was content to just run back and forth.

run6run2runrun7Sometimes I’m not sure he knew where he was running to, but he was having plenty of fun regardless.  And all that running keeps him warm despite that short haired coat of his.

stolirunEach time I’d angle the chucker back for a throw this is the face I’d see.  Complete and total concentration.

readyUnfortunately that didn’t always translate into finding where the ball went when my aim was a bit off and it landed in a snow bank.  bsnowShe did attempt several methods to find those errant balls.  It was quite hysterical to watch her dig and plow her way through the snow in her quest, especially since the snow was as deep as she is tall in most spots!

snorkelrearsnorkel2snorkelsnorkelupThen she’d look up in frustration to see if I had guidance to give.  I’d point her in one direction or another until she realized this was a lost cause.

bA few times big sister attempted to help, snorkeling through the snow and retracing the paths that Brinley had made, carving them a bit wider as she went.

snorkelhelptstrailtequilatrailShe didn’t have any luck finding the missing balls either and decided to go back to her frisbee.

tplay2tplaytplay3And while all this was going on Miss Luna decided to come out to the porch and supervise.

lunaThat’s as far as she made it since she doesn’t like to get her paws in that cold white stuff and it’s definitely deeper than she’s interested in.

Apparently all that fun wore everyone out because a few minutes after we came inside everyone was out cold.

sleepsleep2Including Luna!  It’s hard work supervising all that chaos. 🙂

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A New Roof for the Chicken Yard

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Hi everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  Now that we’re through the big holiday I thought I’d catch you up on several projects that happened around the house in the past few months as we prepared for winter.  The first was replacing the netting over the chicken yard with something sturdier.  The netting had started to tear in several spots and had actually come loose from where it was attached to the wall of the house, leaving our flock vulnerable to attack from above.  The Hubs wanted something more permanent that would stand up to snow, so he found these metal fencing panels at a local fence company.

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First he removed the old netting (note the large ball of it on the roost to the right in the photo above).  Then he cut the panels to fit the space and zip tied them together where there were seams.  He also used zip ties to secure the panels to the support beams of the run.

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Over by the run door he had to get creative to make enough room for the door to open but still work against the laundry room window.  He decided to create an angled panel for this section and it works pretty well.

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He had to trim down the hen house doors so they open underneath the support beam on the front of the run.  It’s so much nicer being able to open these doors all the way without worrying about the edges catching the netting overhead!

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He also added a small metal flashing to act as a gutter along the roof of the run.  This keeps the large amount of water that comes off the run’s roof from flooding the chicken yard, which was a constant problem this summer.  Now it drains right over the blocks I placed around the yard.  This might be too much water for the plants in the blocks next summer, so I’ll have to watch it and decide if I need to set up a water barrel to collect the water and reuse it for the chickens or watering the garden.

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We may eventually cover the panels with clear plastic roofing panels, like those used on greenhouses, to help reduce water pooling more but for now the upgrade is the perfect protection for our cluckers and blends in well with the panels we used for the sides of the yard.

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And it’s been holding up to the snow very well, even when it gets a bit thick.  Looks like another great job by the Hubs!  It’s a good thing he found me so he has reasons to use all those mad skills he’s got. 😉

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Brinley Goes for a Ride

5Hi!  My  name is Brinley and I’m taking over the blog today so Momma can catch up on her t0-do list after a busy week!  I wanted to share a little story about my recent ride in the truck when Mom and I got stuck in something she called “construction traffic.”  Because I’m a puppy I don’t like to sit still for very long so being in the truck for a long time isn’t very fun for me.  I tried to be patient and just hang out, but that didn’t last long.

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So I tried to be helpful by cleaning the crumbs out of mom’s cup holder.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but she didn’t seem to appreciate my efforts.

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So I tried being patient again.  But like I said, that really isn’t my thing.

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So I tried to take a nap on the center console.  But I’m getting bigger now and don’t fit there very well anymore.  I couldn’t get comfortable so I moved back over to my seat.

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Next I tried giving mom puppy dog eyes to see if it would get us out of traffic any faster. She said I looked cute but it wouldn’t help with traffic.

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After a while I was starting to have a serious case of cabin fever, so I really laid on the puppy dog eyes.  Still no luck.

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So I found a toy and invited Mom to play tug-o-war.

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But she said she was too busy watching the other cars.  How can you be too busy for tug-o-war?

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So I tried to help her watch the other cars.  But when they didn’t move I got bored again.

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This is my impersonation of what Mom and the other drivers on the road felt like sitting in their vehicles on a bright sunny day.

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I thought maybe if I didn’t look the traffic would go away… but that didn’t work either.

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Then Mom started to whistle to the song on the radio.

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I tried to ignore her, but I couldn’t because she was right next to me and I’m trained to listen to whistles!

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She finally stopped, but then she wanted to take a selfie.  Whatever that is….

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I moved back over to my seat to relax and I thought she was trying to shade my eyes from the bright sun, but it turns out she was just taking more pictures!

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Finally the other cars started to move and I was excited to see new scenery out the window.

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Luckily, I could tell we were almost home by what I saw out the window!

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But then we stopped AGAIN!  It was so frustrating!

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I was pretty darn tired from all this crazy traffic, but I tried my best to stay awake and keep Mom company. It was really hard!

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I just wanted to rest my eyes from the bright sun for a moment, but apparently I was more tired than I thought and fell asleep.

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At least I’m super cute when I sleep!

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Mom told me later that this is why we stopped again.  We had to wait for this GIGANTIC metal thing to get off the highway in front of us.  It was bigger than Mom’s truck!
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I woke up just as we pulled in the driveway and told Mom I didn’t want to be in traffic ever again.  She said she couldn’t promise anything but gave me a scratch behind my ear before she let me out of the truck.

12So that’s my story about my ride in the truck with traffic.  I hope you liked it.  Mom will be back later this week with new projects she and Dad have been working on, so watch for those.  You never know when I might pop up in the pictures! 🙂

Purdy-ing Up the Chicken Yard

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Part of my plans for the yard this year included adding flowers around the new chicken yard.  I placed cinderblocks around both sides of the yard so I’d have a built in row of planting spots and picked up a couple flats of lobelia at the nursery just for this area.

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Tequila stood chicken watch while I planted.  Things were looking so pretty that even the hubs commented on the new flowers and I was feeling pretty happy with the project.  That is until those fluffy cluckers attacked said flowers and had picked them down to the base before I finished planting the other side!  I quickly placed boards against the fence so the chickens couldn’t see or reach the plants anymore in a desperate attempt to save those that had been hacked.

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But this was NOT the look I was going for.  The hodge podge of boards constantly got knocked over and landed on the plants themselves which was just as damaging as the chickens pecking them.  So what’s a chicken momma to do?

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Well a crafty chicken momma makes protective curtains!  I dug out some thick sail cloth material I had in my fabric stash and cut it to size to fit between each of the posts.  A couple of simple slits along the top gave me a spot to use a zip tie to attach it to the panel and keep things taunt.

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It’s not the fanciest option, but it looks and works better than the piled high boards.  And it didn’t cost me a cent!

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The curtains are just low enough that the chickens can still see out when standing on the ground and just high enough that Brinley can’t see in unless she stands on the blocks.  She can still see through the door so that’s become her new viewing spot, which keeps her out of the plants as well.

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I did have to replace a few of the plants, but now things are looking pretty good.  I didn’t make a curtain for the small panel at the back, since those two blocks will hold grass that I’ll let grow just for the hens.  They are temporarily blocked with two small boards, but once they establish I’ll take them down periodically so they can enjoy fresh greens.

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I also got the walkway along the chicken yard cleared of the rock piles that had been there (hint, those are being used for another project that I’ll share soon).  We’d like to put down pavers or some other permanent pathway from the deck to the gate, but that’s probably a project that will happen next season.  For now having a clear established walkway functions just fine.

I’m sure the chickens don’t appreciate my crafty genius solution, but that’s ok.  I plan to take the curtains down at the end of the season and let the cluckers have at the remains of the plants since they are annuals anyway.  Then I’ll wash the fabric and store it away for next year.

I’d love to hear what you think of my little project to pretty up this utilitarian space in our yard, so leave a comment below!

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Welcome Home Brinley!

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This weekend we brought little Miss Brinley home!  We flew down to Portland to pick her up and bring her back to Alaska and had a great few days away from work and projects to get to know her and bond before introducing her to her siblings.  We were too busy playing and getting to meet her when we first met with her to get pictures but on the ride home she slept in my lap quite content to snuggle.

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AWe stopped to pick up puppy food and dinner for us, so while her Daddy and Mimi went into the store I stayed outside to let her stretch and play in the sun with her new toy.

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And she snuck in a few belly rubs too!

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Once at Mimi’s house she investigated the basket of toys that belongs to her Aunt Honey.  Honey didn’t seem much amused by this but didn’t voice any objections either.

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After playing for a bit her Daddy shared his water with her for a quick drink and then everyone watched the animals on the TV for a few minutes.

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All that playing made for one tired puppy, so she had to take a little nap.

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And so did Daddy.  Having a puppy sure wears you out!

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Daddy took her out to go potty a few times overnight and by morning she had somehow moved into the bed rather than her kennel.

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The next day was spent exploring Mimi’s garden.  There was lots to see and explore including every inch of the area under the plants and the hose that made fun puddles on the patio!

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Every so often we’d take a break to rest and just enjoy the view.  But soon we’d be on the go again.

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Eventually she needed a nap to recharge while us humans enjoyed some lunch.

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After the nap she tried to play with Aunt Honey, but she wasn’t in the mood.

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So we played with some of Honey’s toys instead.  A family friend came over for dinner with their dog but she was older and didn’t want to play even though Brinley did her best to say she was friendly over and over again.

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All that excitement sure wore her out so she slept pretty well that night.

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The last day included more exploring in the garden, a couple quick trips in the car and lots of snuggles from Mimi.

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She loaded up in Aunt Honey’s carrier to make the trip to Alaska and was a hit with everyone who met her, from the ticket counter to security.

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She was still very tired from the excitement of the day and fought to stay awake, even if that meant just letting her head hang on the opening so she could see what was going on in the terminal.  She eventually fell sound asleep and slept for the majority of the flight home!

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Since she’s been home she’s getting to know her siblings who were very excited to meet her.  With a moving mass of 4 canines this is the best picture of the interactions I could get thus far!  There have been a few moments of learning who’s alpha and who’s not, but it’s going well.  Sometimes her brother and sister tire of her insistence to play but her new friend Paige – a friend’s dog we are watching – has been exceptionally patient and gentle with her so they have cuddled quite a bit.

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Her kitty sister has met her briefly, but is in hiding until Paige leaves in a few days.  I’m sure there will be a period of adjustment for both when that happens.  For now, she’s coming to work with me during the week so she can have quick potty breaks and walks every two hours along with a romp at the park during lunch.  There will surely be many more pictures taken in the coming days and weeks so stay tuned for those! 🙂

Cluck Club Update

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There are some new faces in our chicken coop!  We brought home four new hens after seeing an ad on Craigslist from someone who was moving and couldn’t take them.  The ad mentioned that they were already laying eggs so I contacted the poster to find out if they were social.  He responded via text with a photo of his young son holding one of the chickens.  He knew his children would be upset that the chickens were going to a new home but after I described our coop and setup he was sure that they would be happy with us, so we arranged for the hubs and I to stop by after work and pick them up before the weekend.

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The new ladies have settled in quite well.  We kept them separated from the other chickens the first day and tried to introduce the two groups the next, but it was very clear that the two would not do well together so we found a new home for the previous flock with another local chicken family where they could be free range and happy.

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We did keep Miss Biscuit who was at the bottom of the pecking order in the last flock as evidenced by her missing feathers and ruffled appearance.  It seems she holds the same position with her new coop mates but after a few squawks and flaps she knows her place and gives them space so everyone seems to be getting along well.  The dogs are loving their new siblings and often go stand at the fence just to watch them.

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These new ladies are very social and friendly.  They come right up to us and stop and wait to be picked up when we come near them.  They were also in right in the middle of things as we did a little tweaking on the yard this weekend, checking out the ladder, hoping in and out of the hen house as we were working in it and inspecting every little detail.

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I leveled out the piles of dirt left from the trenches the hubs dug when he installed the chicken yard, so now everything is mostly level and ready for the grass to grow back.  I pulled as much of the rock and gravel as I could out of the dirt while leveling so those piles will be added to the landscaping going in around the back deck.  I also added cinderblocks around the entire perimeter of the yard which will be planted with lobelia soon to attract potential prey for our flock, and just make things a little prettier.

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The hubs added a few boards over the hen house doors to hold the netting up so it doesn’t catch on the tops of the doors when they open.  It’s not the prettiest setup but it works for now.

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My favorite new chicken is Charlotte, an Easter Egger who has these fun fluffy feathers around her face and lays greenish blue eggs!  The hubs’ favorite is the black and white chicken, Fluffy.  We may change their names once we get to know their personalities more, which we’re doing quickly thanks to their willingness to be held and petted.

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The change has brought a new color variety to our egg cartons too!  Biscuit continues to lay her speckled brown eggs, while the two black chickens, Split and Splat, lay dark brown eggs.  Fluffy lays a light brown egg which is actually a white egg with small brown spots when inspected closely, and of course Charlotte’s green egg.  Sure makes our old plain white eggs seem kinda boring!

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Next up for the coop is some touch up painting, tilling the yard and creating a fun sign for the fence while the hubs builds a new storage area for their food and treats.  Watch for future posts as those projects are completed!