Monday, December 2

Damn It.

You would think that after two years of this happening that I would, on the third year, have figured out how to keep it from happening.
I am a complete failure at chicken pen roof netting. At least when it comes to the winter months. I try to make it sturdy and strong. I get the netting that has the biggest square openings possible to let the snow go through instead of building up on the top. And mother nature still finds a way to turn my chicken pen top into a heavy, drooping blanket of white that snaps the zip ties and the rope.
My outdoor chicken pen is in a sad state of affairs. But I am not angry this time. This actually gives me the go-ahead to redo the entire outdoor chicken area this coming spring. I have been mulling over this idea in the back of my mind for a while now. It seems like I am constantly shoring up fencing, replacing stakes, filling in holes that develop around the bottom of the fence line, and yes, replacing and repairing the netting.
My main requirements for the redo are:
A sturdy top - to keep out hawks and hold up to any heavy snowfall
A large grazing area for the girls
A more durable system of fence posts that do not require 'shoring up'
If it is portable, it must be light-weight
I have found several options:
I like this pen option because it looks to be light weight but also sturdy. The top is the same metal mesh as the sides so I think that would stand up to snow very well. If I make a smaller pen like this one, I could also make it portable. My idea is to make it longer and make a flexible attachment on one end that would fit up again the coop door. This would let me slide the pen over every few days to allow the girls to graze a different section of grass.

These are nice but I am not sure how my 10 girls would do in such close quarters. The low tunnel would be a good flexible transition piece from the coop door to the main pen.
This one is great - it is low to the ground, looks very sturdy, has a nice top and I could move it around. Having it lower to the ground (currently my fence is 5') would mean that I could quickly throw a tarp over it on rainy or snowy days, and I could still use the old baby swimming pool for a sand-holding dust bath and be able to put a light piece of corrigated roofing over that section to keep it dry.

This most closely resembles what we have now, only this one looks much, much nicer. I like it because it is durable, permanent and I am assuming that the roof is made from the same metal netting as the sides. The girls would not have fresh grass, unless I hooked up the temporary portable pen to this larger one, but they would have weekly deposits of fresh straw, their dust bath and I could put it some permanent climbing and roosting structures.
I still have time to think about my options. There are pros and cons to both portable and permanent fencing. I would like the opportunity to have green grassing growing in from of my shed again but constantly moving the pen might put stress on it and cause it to wear out faster.
Maybe a combination of both - a smaller permanent pen that it 5' with roosting areas and a smaller, portable pen off the side of that which can be moved around via the flexible tunnel.
Any suggestions would be welcome if you have gone through this dilemma before. the last thing I want is to spend the money and build something only to discover through use that it does not work the way I thought it would.

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