We started with a hen coop. We commissioned an artist friend of ours to design and build one for us. What a wonderful job he did. The best way to describe it is a functional work of art. Hand crafted iron wheels. A trailer hitch for moving around the property. Nesting boxes with exterior access doors. A roosting rail inside. If this chicken gig doesn’t work out, it would hold a single mattress quite nicely and function as a gypsy cart.
Our plan was that the hens would sleep in the coop at night. During the day they would roam freely eating whatever they wanted. I should probably explain at this point that New Zealand has no native mammals. I think there a couple of species of bat but that’s it. Bats are hardly likely to eat our hens. So everything else that might like a hen snack is fair game. Possums, rats, stoats, ferrets, and weasels are all killed on sight. Especially in farming communities like ours.
We were a little worried about our two dogs. But they would all come to an arrangement. We thought. The hens would stay in the orchard. The dogs would stay near the house guarding the vegetable beds.
The hens would scratch and peck as much as they wanted in the orchard. They wouldn’t cross a stream and a fence to where the dogs were. Surely not. What could possibly go wrong?