This week we learned a painful lesson. Saturday I purchased not quite 40 winter garden starts, various boc choi, tatsoi, collards, and rainbow chard to plant for our summer garden. I was very excited that our weather had forecast rain and cooler temperatures for Monday and Tuesday, as winter garden crops don't like high heat.
Saturday hubby slaved bringing a truckload of compost, and I shoveled most of it into the garden, on top of some buckwheat cover crop and coop poop-laden straw (say *that* three times fast). Sunday Michael slaved breaking up the soil and mixing it all in, and I planted, watered heavily, very happy with myself that we were just in time to utilize the wet weather.
At work Monday, I waited excitedly for the rain to begin, and was so pleased that I wouldn't have to water in my starts again because it was being done for me.
When I arrived home I walked over to the garden to see how happy the starts were and noticed what appeared to be a start eaten by a slug. I thought, "Oh drat! Oh well, they do get some of the starts." So I looked at the start next to it, and it was eaten down to the stem too. Then I looked at the start next to it and it was also suspiciously missing leaves.
At that point I panicked and looked over every single area we had planted and saw nothing but bare spots or stems! Our slugs in the Northwest are aggressive in the garden, but no slug, even with the help of a little slug army, could eat nearly 40 starts in one evening! In fact, only one creature would be interested in such a thing--chickens!
I was so furious, that I will confess I thought about cutting a few feathered lives short. Later, when I talked to Michael about it, he did mention that Rocky, Mary, and another hen did get out and he put them back, but it never occurred to him that they had decimated the newly planted garden. While I was upset for a fair amount of the evening (ok, I confess, I don't get over things as quickly as I'd like), I'm happy to report all the hens are present and accounted for.
The moral of this story is good fencing is everything. Make sure all your chicken fences are high enough to keep chickens from flying out, with no gaps they can easily go under. We found at least one area where the chickens could easily get out and increased the height of that fence. We are now down to 2 hens that still get out, Seiji, who is so well mannered she would never destroy our garden, and Mary Mary Quite Contrary, who obviously didn't hesitate to eat a garden to the stems. At this point her main escape route letting her into the garden has been sealed off, so hopefully we will not have a repeat of this.