By now you probably have an appreciation for how dedicated Kim is to her chickens. She feeds them. She scrubs out their water fountains. She researches shelter designs. She plants fields of rye for them. She studies chicken psychology. She builds things: enclosures, gates, nest boxes, chicken tractors. Where her chickens are concerned, no effort is too great, and no problem unsolvable.
Take the issue of pasturing, for example. "Pasturing" means providing chickens access to fresh grass and weeds and bugs, usually in a pasture (go figure...). Pasturing is good for the health of chickens, and for the nutritional value of their eggs. That was why Kim planted the field of rye in the fall, to make sure the chickens had access to grass even after they had reduced their chicken yard to dirt.
Well, that field of rye didn't last very long. It was so tasty, the chickens demolished it in no time, and Kim was forced to look elsewhere for a pasture. The problem is, we can't let the chickens roam free because of the two cats, one dog, and family of resident eagles.
Quite naturally, Kim's eye fell on my carefully tended vegetable garden, now mostly quiet except for leeks, beets, carrots and rutabagas still in the ground waiting to be eaten. "Naturally" because it's right next door to the chicken yard, because it's fenced, and because all the paths are lovely long, lush grass. Not to mention the fallow beds are probably full of weeds and bugs.
So Kim built one of her ingenious chicken doors in the fence between the chicken yard and the vegetable garden, and with the help of some "Here chickie, chickie, chickie" calls and a few handfuls of judiciously scattered scratch, she trained the flock to scoot through the door into my vegetable garden that is a veritable Garden of Eden.
Was a Garden of Eden. It's a mess now. Those chickens are very good at scratching and digging, which is just great unless you have raised beds. Now those beds are very well cultivated and almost certainly weed free, but the top two inches of soil is scattered all over the surrounding ground.
So I protested, and Kim's eye turned to the orchard, which is on the other side of the vegetable garden. The big problem: how to get the chickens from the coop to the orchard. The solution: Chicken Alley.
Kim used some plastic fencing and a few spare poles to create a pathway from the chicken yard...
...all the way through the vegetable garden to the orchard. It's like a chicken chute: when the door gets opened the chickens run through the chute as fast as they can, eager to get to the green grass of the orchard at the other end.
Once they're in the orchard there is food and water and the chicken tractor to shelter in if it's a rainy day. The doors at either end of Chicken Alley stay open through the day so the chickens can go back and forth between the orchard and the chicken yard, to lay an egg in a proper nest box, for example. I was concerned they would just fly over the fencing used to make Chicken Alley, because it's only three feet high. But after a few days of commuting, the birds now seem to view the chute as just that, and have stopped making excursions into the vegetable garden.
Clever chickies. Clever Kim.