It is a delicate balance to protect our pheasants and partridges in the outside pens where they live during the winter months before being sold. Nets, 8-12 feet off the ground cover the 100 acres of pens where we house our birds. The grounds inside the pens are developed with ground cover, as a habitat for the over 100,000 birds that are housed there. Some ground cover grows naturally and we are particularly fond of the lamb’s quarter that grows there, but we also plant corn and milo (sorghum grain) inside the pens. Our birds thrive in this habitat as they adapt to the fall and winter weather.
Weed and Plant Growth Have Disadvantages
- Large numbers of birds create lots of natural fertilizer. Plants really grow when they have plenty of nitrogen!
- In fact, sometimes the plants get so large that they begin to go through the 2-inch holes in the top net and then they fall over, creating a blanket on top of the netting.
- Now, those wonderful holes that provide air circulation and sunlight are blocked by this blanket.
- It can get worse! If this problem isn’t remediated before the snow falls, the weight of the snow on top of the weed and plant blanket can cause the netting to fail, (tearing or coming apart at the seams.) Pens can even collapse.
- Prop posts for the nets are built to be raised and lowered when snow is expected, for greater protection. This is impossible if the blanket of plant growth is covered with snow. It is just too heavy.
- Birds get out of the pens if the net fails and we have to repair the net quickly and capture the escaped birds!
- Repairing nets and pens and capturing birds is labor intensive and expensive.
How to avoid problems
- We have to be proactive, even in October when we are extremely busy selling and shipping birds; we have to check our pens for overgrowth of plants. We just have to avoid the blanket of plant growth that creates so many problems.
- Thick and tall cover is great until it starts hitting the top of the nets! That is when we need to get a bobcat or skid loader out and start pushing the weeds down so the blanket can’t be formed on top of the nets.