How to pasture poultry without a chicken tractor

When we first got chickens, we were surprised at how far from home they would wander.  They mostly stayed in our yard, but we found that they'd occasionally go over to the bar near our house, which is further than I expected them to go, and across a somewhat-busy street.  The current flock travels as well, but in a different direction.  I spoke with all the neighbors when we got chickens, but either I missed one, or they changed their mind.  Someone got upset about birds in their yard, and they called the humane society on us.  We weren't home when the officer came out, but we were given a warning about our birds "running at-large".  Oops.  I really wish the neighbor had just come to talk to us; I don't understand why they wouldn't want chickens in their yard eating their bugs, but I would have responded the same way I did to the humane society visit.  In other words, the chickens would have been kept in their run instead of ranging. 

Poor chickens.  In 3 weeks of confinement, their eggs went from having orange yolks to yellow yolks.  I don't think they were as pale as storebought eggs, but there was definitely a difference.  I'd let them out half an hour before sundown to range a bit, since they'd stay very close to their coop, but it just wasn't the same.  Shayne and I talked about fencing the yard; we talked about fencing an area around the coop.  But if we fenced the yard, it would ruin our views and access to the little woods behind the house.  Ethan plays back there, and the neighbors let us dump any yard waste that we don't burn.  And if we just fenced an area around the coop, we knew in short order it would be down to bare dirt.  They could exercise, but there wouldn't be any forage for the birds.  I didn't want to build a tractor, since we already had a nice coop and run.  Plus, most tractors small enough for me to move myself seem like they're too small to really let the birds exercise.  What to do?

After some serious googling, I came across Premier 1 Supplies and PountryNet.  It's portable netting made for pasturing poultry.  It's designed to be electrified, but we're just using it as a standard fence.  There are PVC posts every 10 feet with a U-shaped stake that you step on to push into the ground, and the fence itself is flexible, twisted wire 48" high.  The entire 100' roll weighs about 20 lbs, and it takes me about 10 minutes to set it up on the days I move it.  I'm sure it will be less once I'm not pregnant and can move a bit faster...  The birds get the benefit of fresh forage, my lawn gets fertilized, and the chickens don't stay in one place long enough to destroy the grass.  If there's a downside, I haven't yet found it.

We got the green netting, since we didn't want to draw attention to the fence.  I wasn't sure how it would look, and although we are in a somewhat rural area, we do try to keep things aesthetically pleasing.  I'm no Martha Stewart, but I didn't want our yard to look ghetto (for lack of a better term...).   I had to wait on the green fencing, as it was back-ordered, but I'm really pleased with it.  It's nearly invisible from the road, and it allows the birds enough area that I really only need to move it twice each week.

The chickens are happy, we should be back to getting healthy eggs, and hopefully we won't have any more problems with our neighbors.


Random thoughts

 It didn't start out that way, but today ended up being a busy day in the kitchen.  It was one of those days that reminded me how far I've come, which was really needed.  Since I'm not really having a garden this year, I feel like I'm taking steps backwards instead of forward.  But I am making progress, just in different directions.

Dinner was burgers on the grill (made with local, organic, grass-fed beef), with corn (home frozen), and coleslaw (I used Marzetti's dressing, but cut the cabbage and carrots myself).  Around cleaning up the kitchen afterwards, I took out the chicken broth I had made two nights ago, reheated, and canned it.  I also heated milk for yogurt, which is now cooling a bit before I can add the starter. 

My dishwasher is full of canning jars, there are 4 quarts of broth cooling on the counter, and more jars of milk and yogurt-to-be in the fridge.  I have a jar of homemade lotion on the window sill, and another jar of "Neosporin" ointment next to the stove.  My cupboards are full of them, containing everything from dry beans and pasta to peaches and applesauce.  If there is a single item that embodies homesteading, I'd have to say it's a Ball jar.  I need to get more.  I love them, and if it were up to me, my basement pantry would look like this:

Time to go check the yogurt and see if I can go to bed yet!