This has been the most bizarre winter I can remember. One day it is sunny and in the 50's and the next it is cold, blustery and snow is coming in full force - only to be melted that same afternoon by the temperature climbing back up and the clouds moving away.
We can have almost a foot of snow fall overnight - what has only happened twice this winter - only to have the majority of it melted away by lunchtime the next day. Periodically mix in rain, high winds, cloudless sunny days and temps ranging from the low teens to the high fifties, and you have the recipe for the strangest winter I can remember in upstate New York.
Yesterday the thermometer read 47 degrees at one point and i was outside running errands without a coat. Then last night Roy came in bringing a load of wood and informed me that there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground.
This morning before leaving for work he came in to tell me that the mesh roofing on the chickens outdoor run has collapsed in due to the heavy wet snow. Those big heavy flakes the accumulate too fast and stick together forming a deadwieght of coverage guaranteed to bring down small branches, make barren butterfly bushes lay flat on the ground and perch on to of mesh netting rather than fall through, causing a severe weight bearing issue.
This happened last year when we had some inferior netting and I had what could arguably have been the worst homesteading day of my life trying to repair the damage. We replaced the destroyed netting with a more durable and thicker poultry netting which has openings just large enough to deter a build up of snow.
Apparently not this snow.
And even though, at 9 am when I went out to inspect the damage, the snow was already melting in what promises to be a day in the 40's, the damage to the netting (and my butterfly bush) had been done.
A check of the ladies assured me that everyone was present and accounted for and I left them secured in their coop with a head of lettuce and a 5 pound head of green cabbage for company. The netting will have to be completely removed and repaired, which makes me rethink the whole idea of netting in the first place.
The first things that comes to mind is that we want protection from predators. I have seen hawks stalking my ladies and i have seen them dive bomb the yard when the ladies are out, free range. Also, even though our fencing is about 5 feet high, some of my ladies like to fly the coop and end up wandering around the yard when I do not want them out and about.
The netting is kind of a pain to get up, but once it is up, it is good and I have yet to see a better way to put a top on a pen to keep hawks out. I have seen one other way and that was to take some thick nylon rope and run it back and forth in a zig-zag pattern horizontally across the pen top to make it hard for anything to fly in or out, but I can see how this would only be a 50/50 solution.
So I guess the question is, when I get time to go out and take stock of the netting to judge repairs, should I just take it down all together? OK, I have to say it - Should I go topless? Sorry.
It would make walking inside the pen to clean things up a lot easier, it would look a little better and if one or two of the ladies got out, I don't think it would be the end of the world.
Does anyone have any ideas for tops for chicken pens? What do you use? Do you find them necessary?