Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chickens and goats in the jungle


As summer arrived, chickens, goats and weeds keep us busy (so much for the excuse why there was no blog update for almost two months.) With the start of rainy season, chickens' playground - or, as chickens prefer to call it, Chickens' Republic - again turned into jungle.

Jungle is welcome because it keeps chickens in shade and (somewhat) cool(er). They would have much, much harder time without all the greenery around. But at some point, jungle becomes a bit of a nuisance - too many, too big weed trees are inconvenient even for the chickens.

Translation from Chickenspeak:
"Where are you, darling, I can hear you but I can't see you..."

So we decided it's time to step in and ask the goats for help. Three inhabitants of the neighboring Goat Kingdom kindly accepted our invitation.

Natchan the Boss on the Mission Unjungle

Goats' weeding strategy is to get the most delicious top leaves first:

But interspecies coexistence usually comes with challenges. In our case, there are exactly two:

Challenge 1: Goats love chickens' feed.

Goats' access to chicken run means access to chicken coop, where our hens and a rooster get their daily meals, which contain a lot of stuff that goats love too, like wheat, corn and okara. This is what happens then:

"Hello! ...Oh, yes it was delicious, thanks for asking."
(Natchan just finished her chicken meal.)

But we can't let goats eat chickens' food because, 1) we don't want chickens to be hungry, both because they don't like to be hungry and because their diet directly affects the quality of eggs,  2) chickens' feed also contains small amount of ingredients that goats shouldn't really eat, like oyster shells and fish powder. And we don't want goats to upset their delicate stomachs.

So the challenge is: how to allow goats to the chickens' playground while not allowing them into chickens' dining room, all at the same time  as chickens have free access to both.
The challenge was resolved by an old trick where you build a fence that goats can't cross, but you leave space at the bottom that only chickens can pass through.

Here's a chicken just passing through under the fence.

This sounds like an easy solution but getting the height of the bottom open space just right can be tricky - leave it too low and chickens will have hard time passing through (especially the rooster), leave it too high and a small crawling goat like Momochan will pass as well and head straight to the forbidden area.

Momochan and the chickens.

Momochan and the chickens, from different angle.

We are still working on this. Goat visits to chickens' coop are, um, not so frequent.

Challenge 2: Goats love cultivated plants as much as wild ones. 

On January 3, 2016 - a year and a half ago - we foolishly planted three persimmon trees in the chicken run, hoping that one day they would grow big and provide chickens nice shade in the summer (we didn't know yet that the naturally occurring weed trees would provide the same service free of our labor.)

January 3, 2016: Baby persimmons!

Arrows show where the baby trees were planted.

These three persimmon trees have since endured multiple goat attacks. They were repeatedly reduced to leafless sticks and the very fact that they survived is quite amazing. We've built about five different versions of protective anti-goat fence but every time it turned out we were too naive about Natchan's  ability to tear down every obstacle between her and those freshly grown young juicy persimmon leaves. BUT NOW, we said Enough is enough. Version 5.5 of anti-goat protective enclosure is unbreakable (until goat hackers come up with something new).

Nobuo, his assistant and a persimmon tree
(Version 5.5 of anti-goat enclosure in making.)

Nobuo, four assistants and a persimmon tree 
(Version 5.5 still in making.)

Anti-goat protective enclosure at work. Two days since it's launch and
persimmon trees are still surviving!

That was it about summer chicken jungle. More exciting stories coming soon... maybe, I hope.