Saturday, October 27, 2012

Checking in at the Chick Inn

The Chick Inn has expanded, and it's bigger and better than ever.

Our chicken coop is a prominent feature of our backyard landscape.  The coop sits almost in the center of our backyard and is easily viewed from the house and all the backyard seating areas.  I wanted the coop to blend with the surrounding woodlands, so I selected paint colors that mimic those found in the nearby post oaks.

The original coop is an 8 X 12 foot structure with a high roof and open floor plan to keep the space cool in the summer.  The expansion consists of an additional 12 X 24 foot space that we added to the back.  From the front, the change is hardly noticeable.

A side view of the addition, shows the open run area and entry door. The run is accessible to both the original coop and the smaller coop at the back.  All of the walls and the roof have been made predator proof with 1/2 inch welded wire secured with screws and fender washers.  The white limestone block and river rock foundation have been continued around the building to discourage digging predators.

The roofed portion at the back is a smaller coop and run combination.   Green shade cloth is currently protecting the western exposure.  Additionally, I've planted a weeping bamboo and some fruit trees for protection in this back area.  The weeping bamboo was purchased recently at Vivero Gardens.   

We've had a lot of trees die off due to the drought and the area is now very exposed to sun.  Next summer, I will need to evaluate the area and add additional shade cloth on the south facing wall, which is currently open.  

The smaller coop/run is a 6 X 12 foot structure designed for Pansy and her babies.  The space can accommodate chicks from babyhood through grow-out.  They can safely live here until they are ready to be merged with the existing flock.  This will not happen until they can defend themselves and fight for a spot in the pecking order, which happens at about 4-5 months.

I know it's just a chicken coop, but that solid wall is screaming out for some art work.  I was initially thinking of painting a mural, but honestly, I'll never have time with all my other projects.  I think some simple outdoor wall hangings and maybe a window would be a huge improvement.

This interior view of the small coop, we call the baby bungalow, shows multiple chicken ladders designed to accommodate chicks of different ages.  Pansy started training the chicks to roost on the ladder style roost at about 6 weeks.  Prior to that they roosted on the floor in a protected area I created with a milk crate and some hay.  

Pansy, who is an excellent forager, has been doing a great job of showing her babies how to scratch and find food.  You can tell when they've found something good because the babies make a very high pitched, excited peeping noise.  

One day I heard the babies sounding a little more excited than usual and I knew they must have found something good.  Curious, I headed over to where they were, but my walk soon turned into a run when I heard Pansy make a loud, shrill warning noise.  The babies had found a coral snake.

Red and black, friend of Jack, red and yeller, kill a feller... apparently, even chickens know the rhyme.  This little guy is lethal, so he's collected into a bucket and taken to the far backside of our property.  It's good to know Pansy is teaching her babies such valuable lessons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Inside Austin Gardens Tour - Fall 2012

2012 Inside Austin Gardens Tour:  The Edible Garden
Saturday, October 20, 2012
9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of the things I love about garden tours, besides being invited to peek into other people's backyards, is enjoying the different gardening styles and discovering what speaks to me.

Want to discover what speaks to you?  Find out at the Inside Austin Gardens tour on October 20, 2012.  The tour features 7 private gardens that will inspire, entertain and educate you.  Come learn about how to integrate food crops into your landscape and see how beautifully edibles can be blended with ornamentals.  Here's a sneak peak at 5 of the gardens on the tour.

Garden 1
If heritage and tradition speak to you... don't miss the garden of Carolyn and Michael Williams at 10205 Aqua Verde Court.  This garden has many inherited and recycled objects with lots of stories to tell.  Just ask or imagine for yourself.

What spoke to me in garden 1? No question, it was the cottage.  Every gardener dreams of the perfect little potting shed and this one is dream worthy for sure.

Keyhole gardens in miniature, garden mirrors, and herbs all speak to me.  Garden 1 sure kept my camera busy.

Garden 2
If native plants arranged like mother nature would have arranged them if she had more time speaks to you... don't miss the garden of David and Jennifer Phillips at 6316 Thomas Springs Road.  This garden displays native plants in such a way that you sometimes forget you're in a human-made garden.

What spoke to me in garden 2?  This dried artichoke arrangement said "Ally, why did you ever compost your dried artichokes?  These look great!"

Garden 2 had some wonderful vines.  Two that spoke to me were the butterfly vine and the snail vine.  See if you can tell which is which.

Garden 3 & 4
If lots of color and whimsy feed your senses these two gardens will speak to you.  Donnis Doyle and Ann & Robin Matthews are neighbors at 6303 and 6305 Berkeley Cove.  The stars aligned when these neighbors found each other.  From the minute I drove up and parked my car, I knew I was in for a treat.

At the risk of playing favorites, I have to say these two gardens didn't just speak to me, they sang a hallelujah chorus and welcomed me as a visitor from their home planet.  I love garden bling and these gardening neighbors could write the book.

I surrender.  I'm a sucker for all this cool garden junk.  If garden junk doesn't speak to you, fear not, this garden is loaded with plants too.

Garden 5
If a trip down memory lane speaks to you, you're going to love the garden of Renee Studebaker at 912 E. 39th Street.  This garden recalls an old-fashioned summers day.  From the second you see this house from the street, you'll immediately start craving a cold drink on the front porch.

What spoke to me in garden 5?  The beautiful recycled brick path that runs through the long back garden.  Care for a stroll through the garden?  Stroll slowly and take it all in.

Garden 5 is full of plants that I covet including this Cuban buttercup and plenty of perfectly pruned fruit trees.  Like most old time gardens this city-sized plot of land produces plenty of food in the available sunny spaces.  Don't miss the white garden, which includes many white flowering plants, including white Abutilon.

So... what speaks to you?  Leave me a comment.  I'd love to hear from you.