Monday, July 11

Free Range

Easy on the tomatoes, girls.

After careful observations, noting the absence of coyotes and fox around the property this season, I have decided to give the girls their freedom.

Every day around noon I let them out of their outdoor enclosure and they are free to roam around the yard and gardens, eating their fill of bugs, slugs, and whatever else they find appetizing.

They are not taking advantage of this new freedom by running in the road or digging up the neighbors yard, which is wonderful, and they automatically put themselves to bed around 8:30 pm. I do a head count every night and i always have 18.

One of their favorite spots to hang out are under the cool cedar bushes where they can scratch around in lots of dead leaves and such, and it gives them shelter from any hawks that might fly over. They always have access to their coop for shelter as well, but they prefer the cedars during the day. Another good spot is in the tomato garden. With the lack of rain lately the rows in between the plants have become the perfect place to take a dust bath. I currently have about 7 "burrowing" indents, each with the hen all dust and dirty, but happy.

I have noticed a big difference in their behavior and appearance as well. They are filling out and their feathers look healthier and more filled in. They are also not "hen pecking" each other so much - probably because they have more room to roam and are not getting on each others nerves from being in the pen. They stay in the confines of our two acres, provide a great deal of entertainment, and I now have an audience of 18 when I weed anything. I can hardly get the weed pulled before I have beaks poking around in the loose dirt I just disturbed.

And the best part of all is that I have chickens in my yard. I know that sounds simple and kind of strange but I love having chickens just hanging out in the yard. It just feels right.

I am still worried about predators and I do keep an eye out for any dangers. But I do have to admit that their happiness and freedom is worth a little risk to me. I know they can escape danger in the coop, in the cedars and in any number of other places around the property. I just have to weigh the benefits vs. the risks, and as long as I am vigilant in keeping an eye out and they continue to be the quick and darting mini-Velociraptors that they are, I think they can have the run of the yard.

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