Just over two years ago, I got a text from a friend with an attached photo. The image showed my three eldest children holding tiny brown puff balls in their hands. The message read “Look what we got for our birthday!”
I was informed that the offer included three chicks, a bag of food and a used coop that our friends would bring to us when and if we agreed. After a short discussion with my husband, we were suddenly chicken owners.
There was a lot of initial excitement, as this was our first time raising hens, something we had talked about doing for a long time. Our friends brought them by when they were old enough to live outdoors, and with the coop in place the chickens had a sturdy home and free range of our thousand square foot yard. They could take dirt baths under our citrus trees, and spend their days pecking busily through our lush green grass and garden bed. Pumpkin, Ella, and Roadrunner were happy hens, and within a few months they were full grown and ready to begin contributing to our breakfast menu. I enjoyed gathering their eggs, and got a sense of satisfaction seeing them peck around our backyard when I glanced out the back window. It was just the right amount of country tucked in our backyard.
As the months went along, we noticed that with bigger chickens, came bigger piles of chicken poop, and soon we had a poo-poo problem. There was chicken crap on the patio and the window sills, and a walk to the play set revealed hidden towers of turd in the grass. There were heaps of abandoned children’s shoes on the patio crusted with crap on the bottoms, and toddler toes teaming with turd with squeals requesting me to wipe them clean multiple times a day. It was a mess and it needed to stop!
At first we tried the lazy approach, gathering all the backyard chairs, toys and buckets and trying to form a barrier around the patio. Atleast that would keep the patio clear. It proved to be a weak defense, as it only took one child taking a toy from the “wall” to let the chickens back on to the patio. Next, we tried keeping an industrial sized squirt bottle by the door so that any time we saw them on the patio, they’d get a swift squirt to the face sending them running. It worked when we were home, and watching through the window, but it required far too much vigilance. Eventually, Kevin went to Lowe’s and got some chicken wire and a handful of posts and attempted a quick fix chicken fence. It worked for about a day, and then we realized it wasn’t the fortress we thought it was and were back to square one.
When the weather warmed up, the flies were all over our patio feasting on the chicken droppings and flying into our back door whenever the kids left it open. Kevin was using his fly catching ninja skills daily to keep up with the abnormal amount of flies getting into our house. Around this I also noticed that our grass was looking quite sparce. While the chickens had done an amazing job of getting rid of any weed overgrowth, they had taken all the grass out too. We were left with mostly dirt, sprinkled with chicken poop morsels in several shades of brown.
We had a choice to make: set firm boundaries in the form of a chicken fence, or allow our yard to reap the consequences of them running free. It took several months of researching chicken fencing options online and mustering up the energy and motivation, but one day we set out to Lowe’s and took the leap. Within three days, we had a functional fence that sectioned off a portion of the yard for the chickens to enjoy, leaving the remainder to us.
Within days I noticed small green sprouts of grass coming up on what we thought was a permanently ruined backlawn. Within a few weeks it had multiplied, and suddenly we had that green yard that the chickens had so gradually ravaged. The kids were free to run and play outside barefoot, and I no longer needed to set up a crap cleaning station stocked with towels and baby wipes by our back door. I noticed that the following summer there were no flies swarming our patio because they had all relocated to the chicken’s fenced area, and the patio had not a single chicken turd waiting for pudgy toddler toes to slip in. Life had changed for the good and we were never going back. We saw the power and benefits of boundaries.
Boundaries are like chicken fences. They take time, thought work, effort and motivation to build and then consistently enforce because even the best chicken fence will need maintenance. But when they are defined and put into practice, they do an amazing job at keeping the crap out and the good in.