Yes, we have wildlife challenges in the inner-city

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This used to be a head of broccoli
This used to be a head of broccoli

The photos above and below show what were heads of broccoli, almost ready for harvest.

Until the possum decided to have a midnight snack. They were consumed in a single night, so there wasn’t much we could do. (Add to that the ongoing challenges from rats, which will give most things a nibble.)

So yes, even in the inner-city, we have wildlife challenges when growing vegetables…

Another former head of broccoli
Another former head of broccoli

Concrete slab in the chicken run versus rats

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Evidence of rats trying to tunnel into the chicken run
Evidence of rats trying to tunnel into the chicken run

As anyone who has chickens in an urban setting knows, the big enemy are rats. They’re cunning and determined, and given a chance they’ll eat all the chicken feed, and anything else they can find.

Three years ago we ran wire underneath the whole chicken run, in order to keep the rats out. The wire has held up very well, but there’s been a renewed push from the rats in recent months. This includes creating a number of underground tunnels and burrows, testing whether they can get access from underneath.

Concerned that they would become motivated enough to chew through the wire (which they can!), I decided to implement a more permanent solution.

Clearing back down to the chicken wire base.
Clearing back down to the chicken wire base.

The first step was to clear down to the layer of chicken wire running across the bottom of the chicken run.

Wire mesh in place as reinforcing for the concrete slab.
Wire mesh in place as reinforcing for the concrete slab.

I then laid down a grid of galvanised iron, to provide reinforcing for the concrete slab. This is held off the ground by a series of spacers.

Fourteen bags of concrete

The day before I’d headed to the local hardware store, and picked up fourteen bags of ready-mix concrete (thank goodness I’ve now got a ute!).

The concrete slab, just poured.
The concrete slab, just poured.

I mixed the concrete in my wheelbarrow, 2-3 bags at a time. In total, the whole process took about four hours, from the initial clearing through to a freshly-poured slab.The total cost was about $160, including the concrete and wire.

It was also good exercise!

The concrete slab in action.
The concrete slab in action.

At first the chickens weren’t sure about the slab, and were hesitant to walk on it. They’re over that now.

I’m also expecting the concrete slab to be re-buried underneath soil and mulch within a week, once the chickens get scratching. (The wire was previously buried under a foot of accumulated material.)

The plan is also to progressively pour further slabs, working up the chicken run.

Update: within 24 hours the rats gnawed a hole through the wire above ground to get in to the chicken run. Doh! Further reinforcing has been done, and I’m going to pour a little more concrete in some key areas of weakness.

I may have won this battle, but the war against rats continues…

Keeping rats out of the chicken run

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Laying down wire underneath the full length of the chicken run, to keep out the rats.

“Rat cunning.” It’s an expression you hear, but you don’t fully understand until you see them in action.

When we created our chicken run, we ran aviary mesh up the sides of the run, and chicken wire across the top. Old concrete garden edges were dug 30cm into the ground on all sides, locking down the wire.

We thought it would be enough to keep out the rats. Boy were we wrong!

Within a month, rats started tunneling under the fence from the convent next door. They went under the concrete edging, and opened up new holes every night. (It doesn’t help that we back onto the railway line, which is both rat haven and highway.)

While the the chickens themselves were safe in their Fort Knox of chicken coops, the rats were scavenging any feed scattered about by the hens.

So I spent the last few weekends digging up the chicken run, laying down wire, and then cementing in the gaps. A lot of work, but hopefully the chickens should be safe now.

Of course, the wire will rust away in a few years. Had we known what we know now, we’d have bitten the bullet and laid a concrete slab when we created the run.

Still, this should last a while. And maybe when these defenses fail, I’ll be feeling more enthusiastic about laying a slab.

The take-away message: don’t underestimate rats, particularly when you live in the inner-city.

A new home for the compost bin … and the chickens make their mark

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Making a concrete pad for the compost bin to sit on.

We’ve now finished the clean-up of the backyard, and have started to plant out a native garden (more on this in a future post). With the left-over bricks (etc) out of the way, it was time to move our 2nd Aerobin into it’s final location on the fence.

Last year, the rats ate a hole through the thick plastic base of our other Aerobin, and dug themselves a nest in the nice warm compost. Never again! So this compost bin gets a small but solid concrete base.

This took a couple of hours to do, and took six bags of concrete. As a DIY job, it’s not the best example of concreting, but it’s hidden under the compost bin.

Now, finishing concreting normally sees one’s cat or dog walk across the wet surface. Not in our case, it was the chickens who made their mark:

The chickens make their mark on my concrete base.

The aim is to grow up a dense screen of natives around the compost bin, and its green colour should help 🙂

The compost bin in its final position on the concrete base, against the side fence.