PHCT's Hen House Project was started by its members in the winter of 1992-93 when PHCT was introduced to floating nest structures. The nests consisted of two cylinders fastened to a triangle shaped platform that floated in the water and was anchored by a cement block. They were placed in larger bodies of water where predators such as fox, raccoon, or skunk could not reach the nesting hen mallard ducks. After using this method for a few years, PHCT found that they were too labor intensive as well as too expensive.
PHCT then started using a more economical pole type structure that could also be used effectively in smaller wetlands. The nest consists of a rolled wire mesh cylinder lined between layers with flax straw or grass hay. The straw or hay lasts one to three or four years, then the nest must be refurbished with new bedding. Two nest cylinders are attached to a 10 ft. “stop sign” post with a welded bracket. Currently the brackets are fabricated as a learning project by the vocational agriculture welding class at Ashby High School. A pvc pipe predator guard is also used.
Trust members, other area conservation groups and volunteers construct the nests. They gather every Sunday beginning in January to do maintenance on existing structures, build new structures, and install the hen houses in suitable habitat. Members will always ask a landowner for permission to install nests in his shallow water slough. More often, however, landowners are requesting nests and will install and maintain the nests themselves. If you see a nest structure that needs to be refurbished, please talk to the landowner or contact a member of PHCT with the location.
The hen house project continues to grow. More than 400 hen houses are in place with a nesting success rate exceeding 60%, making a significant impact on the area's duck population. See the Winter 2012 Newsletter for more details. Later newsletters contain stories with additional information on the continuing project.
Our time on earth is brief, yet the land goes on forever, carrying with it the marks of each succeeding landowner. As fleeting trespassers on land that belongs to future generations, we must touch the land gently, caring for it as true stewards, so that those who assess our record will see our love and respect for the land and life. (Robert B. Oetting)