Well if that title didn’t turn you away, perhaps you need a new set of interests. Anyway, we went away for the weekend, though with serious misgivings regarding the safety of the dwindling flock after last week’s carnage. The uncertainty was despite the fact that I’d begun a frantic Thursday by driving one hundred miles to get the only affordable solar fence charger in the region, with the intent of creating a safe coop for the upcoming weekend and those to follow. (Yeah, if you checked that last link, I know. I should ‘buy American’. Well I haven’t been in a WalMart in ten years but I hypocritically shop at Harbor Freight Tools. More on all that later.)
Here’s the original coop door, one of the four that opens to allow for rotating the flock through the garden seasonally. Normally, if we’re home, we close the door each evening and open it first thing each morning, thus keeping them hopefully safe during the night.
Here’s the new set-up, modeled after a brilliant plan supplied by Alan at ‘Robert’s Roost’. The hot wire is soldered to a piece of hardware cloth, cut slightly smaller than the plywood door underneath. It is separated from the door by a layer of eighth-inch thick vinyl, scavenged from a blown out exercise ball, and held in place with plastic cable ties. So, the hot panel is isolated from everything else. Please pardon the loose wiring; as you’ll see I was literally playing ‘beat the clock’ against chickens, who have better internal clocks than most personnel managers.
Unfortunately on Thursday, the time spent buying the charger and replacing my old coop door with a new electrified one, left NO time for the chickens to adjust to the new appearance of the ramp. In fact, they were literally milling around at sunset waiting for me to hook the new door up so they could go to bed. So, I finally finished, hit the switch and stepped back……
Yes, I agree. In hindsight, that was a move that bordered on the moronic. I should not have hit the switch, until the new door had been thoroughly explored and approved by the chickens. There was no time. I needed to know that it worked. I needed to be on the road on Friday morning at the latest. So, here’s the blow-by-blow: the first hen approached the new ramp, vastly different from the old one, with two agonizingly competing ideas in her little chicken cerebrum. First: it is past bedtime, therefore, she must hop onto this ramp and trudge into the coop to sleep. Second: this ramp is new and different than the old one, therefore, she must thoroughly investigate it before proceeding. Now, in my limited years as a chicken watcher, conflict makes their little chicken heads smoke and burst into flame. So, to resolve the conflict, hen #1 leaned over to inspect the ‘hot’ ramp instead of just hopping up onto it. Standing on the grounded hardware cloth, she unfortunately touched her breast to the ramp and completed the circuit nicely.
A loud squawk broke sunset’s spell as she leapt back and the whole flock ground to a halt. Following that reaction, nobody was going to touch the purple path of death. I cursed life in general, and poultry in particular, turned off the juice and went inside for a beer. I returned to watch them all wrestle with the dilemma of chicken #1 and all eventually hop onto the now juiceless ramp and go to bed.
As we left for town on Friday morning, I turned on the power to the ramp with very mixed feelings, but figured that if it worked to dissuade predators from entering the coop and if the chickens learned to avoid the shock by just instinctively hopping up onto it, then I’d have won. But if the chickens were terrified of the set-up, they might be even more at risk by avoiding the coop altogether. I was not happy at the possible outcomes and thought about it on and off all weekend, though the die had been cast.
So on arriving tonight I immediately went to the coop. Mixed results. The chickens were all inside and were wet from the evening rain, showing that they had successfully entered and left the coop during the weekend via the new doorway. However, I did find one dead hen, but she was in the coop unscathed. She apparently succumbed on Friday to the effects of last week’s predator attack (she was one of the two wounded). So there were losses as well as gains.
But, all in all, the new electrified door gets a thumbs up from me. Thanks, Alan!
Posted on July 6th, 2008 by jack-of-all-thumbs
Filed under: Meat, Eggs, etc.