Wet, wet, wet...

Priscilla behind bars during the stormy weather

Priscilla behind bars during the stormy weather - Credit: Archant

Driving rain and high winds make for a stressful time for chicken keeper and chickens alike

How was your Christmas?

Our’s was soggy and stressful thanks to the endless cycle of driving rain and high winds, which have left the garden looking battered and feeling like soggy, stubbled marshmallow underfoot.

The area round the henhouse is especially sorry, turned from lawn into a sea of mud, thanks in part to the birds themselves, and my daring to walk on it so that they’re fed and watered. Getting to them in the evening is actually quite dodgy, as I’ve slipped and nearly ended up on my BTM a couple of times.

A lot of the time they chickens been penned up, thanks to the serial collapse of the fence panels which divide our garden from next door’s. We’d spent Christmas itself with family in London, when the weather was particularly nasty, feared that disaster would strike when we weren’t around to cope with it, and had asked Phil, the friend who looks after our flock when we’re absent, to phone if there was a serious problem.

He didn’t, but when we got home, three fence panels had been blown over. The wind had completely eviscerated one, tearing out the slats and spreading them over the garden, whilst one of the wooden posts had snapped where it had been secured into the ground with concrete.

The chickens were safe in their home-made aviaries, but slopping about on a sea of mud in one because yet another fence panel, attached to its end to keep out the weather, had also been torn free and chucked into the garden, opening up everything behind it to the wind and rain. Some of the birds looked as if they’d been water cannoned.

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So they wanted to go out a great deal, and there was a lot of grumpiness and squabbling, but with nothing to stop them wandering into neigbouring gardens and predators getting into ours, this wasn’t an option and they had to remain locked up.

It took a couple of days for the weather to calm down enough for me to sort out some repairs, and when things were finally secured, the flock charged gratefully out of their confinement and got on with wrecking what was left of our lawn.

Of course, the weather wasn’t done with us, and within days the storms were back and once again had punched a hole in our fence, neatly extracting another panel, and propping it, undamaged, against a tree.

Once more confined to their aviaries, the chickens looked thoroughly depressed, but I quickly found that effecting repairs in a gale was impossible, so had to wait for a calm patch before digging out my tools for the umpteenth time and squelching into the garden once more.

The problem was the busted fence post, which was rocking backwards and forward like a lose milk tooth, so the nails holding the fence panel were being torn out. Digging out the post’s concrete base was beyond me, so I banged a small Met post into the ground next to it, stuffed a smaller upright into that, nailed the two together and was gratified by this rather ugly looking fix’s solidity. It cost me a tenner, which was also the cause of moderate, Scrooge-ish celebration.

Will it last? Goodness knows, since the ground, which turns to concrete in the summer currently has the consistency of sponge cake.

As I write, the wind is back, but so far the fence is holding up, although having virtually been blown across the garden when I came to feed the chickens this morning, I haven’t let them out yet, which has resulted in a lot of human/chicken eye contact and what can only be described as avian dirty looks.