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Fernglade Farm
Fernglade Farm
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Cherokee, Victoria, AU
Climate zone:
Cool Temperate

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Fernglade Farm

Fernglade Farm

Cherokee, AU

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How to dig a hole

Project: Fernglade Farm

Posted by Chris McLeod about 9 years ago

Last week’s wind really dried the landscape. It was as if the strong winds blowing in from the centre of this hot continent stole every drop of moisture from the soil surface on the farm and then just took all of that moisture somewhere else. On the other hand that lack of moisture made the construction of the new chicken house and enclosure a bit easier than it otherwise would have been during the depths of winter.

The chicken house and run project – let’s call it “chooktopia” – has received several days of work this week. The chooktopia structure is quite complex because the entire structure is actually two very different sheds under the same roof line. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, I’m trying to foil the activities of the very naughty and intelligent rats, which currently enjoy free access to the existing chicken house and enclosure. Every night those rats are thumbing their twitchy little noses at me and making off with the chicken feed. It is mildly irritating to be outsmarted by a rat, but then I guess that is what is meant when people speak of “rat cunning”.

Anyway I must confess that way back in very early 2011, and despite having read many books on keeping chickens, I had absolutely no idea about either chickens or rats. Four years on, I’ve wised up on the subject of keeping chickens and also keeping rats. The new chooktopia project incorporates everything I’ve learned about both of those species since the innocent, heady, early days.

The basic galvanised steel frame of chooktopia was constructed this week. It is very exciting to see all of the steel posts in the ground and the whole steel frame tied together. I thought that it might be useful to look at how I actually construct these structures. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Firstly, some people may wonder why I have even chosen to use galvanised steel for the frame and cladding and that is a fair question. The simple answer to that question is that the rats will have quite a bit of trouble climbing up smooth vertical galvanised steel surfaces. Take that you rats! Rats can actually climb vertical timber surfaces with ease. Around here the rats live in burrows dug into the soil or alternatively in hollows high up on very large trees. The average family of rats in the forest here will displace sugar gliders, bats and birds. On the other hand, the rats don’t get an entirely easy time of it as they are easy prey for birds, foxes, cats or dogs.

Also, the average rat can chew holes into timber and scratch away at any weak edge on a concrete slab. It is a fair thing to say that easy access to chicken feed and scraps is on the average rat’s mind 24/7/365 (take that Kanye!). However, I am yet to see a rat that can chew its way through steel, so the main construction material for chooktopia is steel.

The design for Chooktopia incorporates 12 galvanised steel posts and this week was spent installing the remainder of those steel posts. The steel posts are set in structural grade cement in holes which vary from between 600mm (2 foot) to 900mm (3 foot) deep. The deeper holes are on the downhill side of the chooktopia project.

As a side note, the editor determines the location of the holes via a combination of string lines and tape measures – I do the digging! My understanding on such matters is that to ensure that the structure is an exact rectangle; the editor divides the design of the building into two opposing triangles and simply ensures that the longest diagonal side of each opposing triangle has the same measurement.

A hole for one of the steel posts is about to be dug

The commencement of the process for digging a hole can be seen in the photo above. The site of the hole has been selected by the editor and I then use a shovel to dig a square hole in the ground a few inches deep. The shovel in the photo above has the bright yellow handle and is sticking upright out of the soil. Before we proceed any further though, I have to ask the hard question: Why would anyone ever manufacture a decent shovel, and then give it a plastic handle? Seriously, the plastic handle (which I have a ready steel replacement handle for) is already showing signs of stress fractures…

For the rest of the blog click on: http://ferngladefarm.blogspot.com.au/

A hole for the steel post is about to be dug

Comments (1)

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Rodney Robinson
Rodney Robinson : Hey Chris I was reading what our permaculture design manual had to say about winds and wind breaks (page 123). I am going to focus on wind breaks when designing anything that comes my way. To look at your picture abve, it does look like you have at least some trees to slow down a wind. All my best Rodney7777
Posted about 9 years ago

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