An outdoor pen for our growing chicks
An outdoor pen for chicks should satisfy several goals: 1) it gives the curious, active, growing birds a chance to explore and practice free-range foraging; 2) it protects them from daytime predators such as housecats and possibly ravens, magpies, and small hawks; 3) it’s cheap, simple, and easy to move to a new location each day; and 4) it provides normal food and water, as well as grass, weeds, dirt, and objects for climbing and perching. Ours is made of 1 x 1/2 inch wire mesh, 24″ wide, with a deployed diameter of about 6 feet. The wire is plenty strong and stiff, but the whole thing can be rolled up to less than 12″ in diameter for transport. It’s easy to pick up and move around the yard while assembled. We cover it with a piece of heavy-duty blue tarp, held in place with spring clamps. The materials can be found at someplace like Home Depot for a total of about $20. Here it is near our squash and garlic garden, and Naomi’s studio:
For practicality and convenience, it’s fairly important to secure the lower overlap of the fence ends by cutting a small hole in one end for a clamp to fit through:
I cut holes in a disposable plastic pot from a tree nursery, to accept the trusty yogurt-and-nipple water system, and provide chick access. We provide the same ubiquitous plastic jar chick feeder that we use elsewhere. Nothing fancy, and it works fine. A couple chunks of firewood are much appreciated. We’ve learned how to select spots with a good balance of grass, dandelion and other tasty weeds, and scratching dirt.
With a new piece of log, the birds went straight to town pecking for bugs in the bark.
Sophie, the White [Plymouth] Rock, stands on the log in a hot weather chicken pose.
Soon joined by Dori, the Golden-Laced Wyandotte…
In the afternoon we set up a sprinkler on low flow, for cooling and wetting part of the territory. Chickens don’t seem to care for taking a shower, but they like the cooling effect while the water is on, and the wet grass and soil after it’s off. You can see the outdoor water system behind Sophie on the right.
Here Sophie stands on top of the water reservoir. It’s hard to see, but three big round holes are cut into the base of the upside-down plastic plant pot, with one hole in the top (bottom) for the water container. As always, the chicks quickly figured out where and how to get water. They also take naps inside the water stand, which must feel cozy and secure.