To keep up accreditation in our field, we architects must attend seminars that address certain areas of our profession. The majority of the credits we need are in the area of “Health, Safety, and Welfare,” a general category meant to keep our knowledge current so our buildings don’t collapse and kill people. (Granted, these seminars are usually bone-dry boring affairs run by building products manufacturers to sell their products, so attending these seminars is not, for me, an irony-free affair.) Anyway! I think of this phrase often now that I sideline in animal husbandry. If you’re going to take on the responsibility of having animals, anything you do must benefit their health, their safety, and their welfare.
Coop construction, July 2006
I am so glad we built the Taj Mahal of chicken coops, really I am. Never intended to house more than a dozen or so birds, our coop could easily accommodate another dozen, but I am glad it does not. Why? This cold weather is why. Those girls are going nowhere. Even if I do leave the door open and shovel them paths to tread in their yard, it’s just too cold for them outside. They are (and will remain for the foreseeable future) cooped up.
Cooped up, and bored. Sorry, girls. I do try to bring them treats a couple of times a day, and I do need to freshen their water, which freezes. (In their boredom they flipped and pecked the heated dogbowl I set in there; fearing barbecued chicken, I removed the bowl, and now schlep water often.) During the day I turn a 40 watt light on for them too; it’s on for about 10 hours. They’d started laying again (whew!) around Christmas before the light went on so I don’t think I am overstimulating them to produce, and the light is too faint to really warm the place up.
Secretary of the Department of Chicken Homeland Security: yours truly, July 2006
Our pellet gun has gone a long way to defend the Chicken Homeland. A good strong fence over and above the chicken run would help too with aerial threats but it’s not in the cards if I have my Daisy handy. Last year I strung deer netting over the run and awoke one morning to find a hawk INSIDE the run. What the…? The girls were in the coop as is the usual overnight situation but I had the hawk to deal with. Tom and daughter were out of town. What to do? As usual when defending the Chicken Homeland my adrenaline kicks into high gear and I ran outside in fuzzy slippers and bathrobe with the nearest weapon I could find: a cast-iron skillet. It was not the hawk’s best day.
The geese and turkeys have their own pen and shed, and I have to chase them all into the shed every night. Sometimes the geese adamantly refuse to go into it and I let them stay out. Considering they don’t really sleep at night (they doze most of the day, in turns) being in the shed is no fun for them. We’ve had no threats to the Greater Poultry Homeland, though.
Now that we’re getting a goat or two, plans are changing. Dogs are the greatest threat to goats, dogs and their wild coyote cousins. Again, the goat(s) will be cooped up at night in their own shed inside a sturdily-built fence. Considering that goats are great as poison ivy and brush eradicators, we’ll use electrified fencing to give them access to day browse.
So, yeah, you’ve got to do a bit to keep your critters safe, secure, happy and healthy. Owning them, though, is so rewarding that the daily details of addressing their needs are really much more of a pleasure than a burden. Skillet days excepted, of course!