The Problem with Autumn/Fall…

Autumn/Fall is a beautiful season. The leaves on the trees show a myriad of colours and for a period of time the garden looks like a beautiful oil painting.

The chickens love it too. As the leaves fall they take great delight in turning the leaves over, scratching at them to reveal hiding insects for them to eat or simply playing in them.

But (and you knew there had to be a “but”) those leaves are HARD work too.

The field that our flock is in is surrounded by poultry mesh electric fencing. The fence is there not to keep the chickens in but to keep predators out. Over the years we have had foxes, badgers and loose dogs all trying to get to the hens. The electric fence has successfully kept them all out.

Electic fences are wonderful. They work by passing an electric current from point A to point B through metal strands woven into the mesh.

The only issue happens if the metal strands in the mesh touch the ground or are connected to the ground. If that happens the current is broken and the electric fence becomes just a fence.

In Autumn/Fall the leaves from our trees tend to get blown by the wind into the fence creating a pile which diverts the current into the ground.

It keeps me so busy. I have to turn off the electric current and bring out the lawn rake to move the worst of the leaves. I move them to the compost bin area. We use them to create a leaf mulch which is so nutritious for our soil so it’s worth the effort.

SShhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone but I also cheat. You might notice that the photograph shows one of our lawnmowers. I don’t have time to rake all of the leaves out in the open but if I don’t do something they’ll just pile up against the electric fence at the first gust of wind.

The lawnmower has a mulching plate. I set the blades high so that the grass isn’t cut as I want it available to the chickens for grazing. The blades still hit the leaves on the surface drawing them into the mulching plate. Voila! Pulverised leaves and no threat to the electric fence!

I appreciate that this is lazy, and I’m missing out on (some) leaf mulch but who has the time? Sometimes on the smallholding it’s a case of priorities and picking the autumn raspberries is FAR more important than leaf mulch! I’d love both, but I need a 28 hour day.

You might ask why we have the chicken area both surrounded by trees and having lots of trees inside the field. Well there are 2 main reasons that make them invaluable:

  1. The trees provide a barrier to the high winds that whip across the flat landscape in our part of Lincolnshire in the UK. It makes it safer and more pleasant.
  2. The chickens have lots of shade in summer to prevent them from overheating. Their favourite spot on a hot summer day is under the biggest cherry tree.

Hugh created a short series for anyone interested in installing an electric fence. We highly recommend a fence as a way to protect your chickens. We have film from our CCTV of foxes patrolling the perimeter of the fence but we have never lost a chicken to a fox. Unfortunately our neighbours without fences have not been as lucky.

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