Just animals and grass. That is our focus. We keep that principal in mind when designing housing for our livestock. And through this ideal of simplicity we are pushed to focus on man-powered equipment.
Our chicken houses are designed to meet those demands; they are open-floored, light enough to move by hand but just heavy enough to keep from blowing away in a rain storm. But to achieve these requirements the roofing material has to be light-weight and waterproof. So in the beginning we started with green, moderately inexpensive tarps from our local hardware store. These tarps met all of our criteria and at the time I thought this was a great idea. But in retrospect it turned out to be a terrible gift that just keeps on giving.
Light, flexible, and waterproof, one could reasonably assume that a tarp is to be used outside in all sorts of weather. There are even pictures on the packaging of outdoor use. We got the sizes we needed. We put them on and everything was hunky dory. But sunlight (a.k.a ultraviolet rays) is the one element that we seem to have over-looked.
We didn’t even get a single season’s use out of these tarps. When newly opened out of package they off-gassed. If that isn’t bad enough, as they degraded in the sun they shredded into tiny, chicken-bite-sized-pieces. The pieces spread all over the farm from the wind and into any paddock that the hens spent time in.
We essentially polluted our own small farm’s beautiful fields with these plastic strands of poison and lost a number of chickens because they would eat it if given the opportunity. The adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t fit better and to be honest this was a hard lesson to learn.