Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Bring Our Chickens Home" Day

Today was Bring Our Chickens Home Day. I know this makes my chicken friends especially happy. For my education friends I'll continue to try to connect my thinking to the radical transformation of our public education system; it's actually not hard, as everything one experiences is learning, whether it be new learning or learning that is adjusted, refined or expanded. Brian Cambourne refers to the zone of proximal development when supporting children with new learning.  It's helpful to connect new learning to a child's strengths and approximations, something perhaps they've already tried or something they have a bit of knowledge about already; or something they are just on the brink of truly understanding and putting into practice.

For my family, we have some knowledge of raising chickens; if a farmer were to take a quick assessment of our greatest strength, in terms of raising animals right away on our little farm, chickens would be the go-to animal to pick - it's within our zone of proximal development.  We have a great chance of doing quite well with raising even more chickens. Our knowledge is in no way vast, as we have previously only raised city chickens - lovely spoiled rotten chickens who lived in a beautiful coop that looked like this!

Our new home is on a two acre plot with fairly unruly land. No one has gardened or raised animals on this land in ages. We have our work cut out for us.

Our new space for chickens isn't actually pretty compared to our city coop, our land isn't perfectly manicured, the coop is crazy old, and there's a lot of weeds to be cleared. We started our day by clearing out the coop - my husband did most of the work - it was full of dust, cobwebs, and wasps.  We then discovered that the roosts weren't chicken friendly. Chickens really prefer a roost that they can wrap their foot around and these roosts were thin and flat (you can see them below the large round roost we added today).
New roost 
If we let them run wild, they would sleep in trees at night, so the preference is something a bit like a tree branch to roost on. We found an old log and began measuring to see if it was the right size for the coop. Is it pretty? No :) But it works! Also, the little door that allows the chickens into the yard had no pulley, which means we would have to go inside the coop every morning and night and pull it open. Seems like a small thing, but these little tasks add up. Luckily my youngest son had a pulley kit that he had never used. We pulled it out and learned how to create a pulley for our little chicken door. Imagine children doing this at school? A pulley is a great thing to know about - you can pull things up with half the use of power!

And there's something fabulous I've discovered about old farmhouses (ours was built in 1905) - there are little treasures everywhere. We found wood, hook and eye sets, little S hooks and managed to rig together a system quite quickly. We got the pulley set up, a new roost intact, and the coop was ready to go.

We did a lot of reading about fencing before we picked out a fence. We had three things to think about - chickens escaping, predators getting inside, and simply considering how permanent we want this to be. If we hope to rotate the chickens in the various paddocks, permanent fencing would be a mistake. We ended up going with an electronet fence. It has a solar/battery charger and it gives off just enough shock to keep you away from it - we all tried it so we know :) And quite honestly, in terms of cost,  I would consider it to be the most cost effective fencing for our particular plan. We got 164 feet for about 175 bucks - and we can move it if we want to. We set it in a location that allows the chickens to get shade, sun, as well as dust baths and plenty of places to explore.

So - lots of learning, but learning that occurred within our zpd (zone of proximal development). My husband had drawn up plans and created our city coop from scratch. Here, with a chicken coop already in place, we had to figure out how to work with what we have. With a little pulley physics, measurement, a handy power drill and a fence post driver and a lot of reading, we pulled it off. It's just the beginning of our plans. We are going to expand the coop to allow us to have two sides - one for hens, and one for meat chickens. And yes yes yes, of course I'm going to paint and doing something to make it pretty!

I think about all the learning that went into getting our coop "chicken ready" today, and I wonder, why are we allowing the corporations to drive public education - when learning could be so different? Why aren't we demanding learning that is holistic, engaging, and allows children to research, be outside more, and be mentally, physically and emotionally engaged? Learning that connects them to the earth? Learning that connects them to solutions for our many many problems?  I wonder when the education revolution will occur - will the students lead it? Will they be so bored from the absolutely mind-numbing scripted online learning that they revolt? I fear with the direction the unions are going (normalizing charters and unionizing charter teachers and supporting ESSA), there's very little hope of a mass teacher uprising. Those that stand strong to demand all for all children are sadly chastised and labeled purists. It's an incredibly difficult world to navigate these days. I have immense respect for my teacher friends who are still pushing forward.

In the meantime, we have happy hens. We picked them up at the neighbors where they've been the last four months and there have been no complaints thus far. Happy Bring Our Chickens Home Day. Enjoy the pics my chicken friends!!!

Luke puts Mrs. Piggle Wiggle over the fence

Electronet fence

Happy happy chickens 

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