I live in the suburbs. A few years ago they built units along our back fence. Here’s a shot of our closest neighbour now that the fig tree has dropped its leaves and all is revealed:
But wait!! What’s that in the undergrowth?!?
Yes, I was sitting having a morning coffee in front of the coop when, on a whim, I reached out and opened the side door to the coop that lets them free range. I had no intentions of doing this today, but it suddenly seemed like the right time.
The other animals were intrigued…
Daphne was sure that hiding behind a plastic icecream container would be a smart way to sneak up on them.
But it wasn’t.
Molly was very interested, but had the sense to give them some space.
A few minutes later Bertie would have LOVED some space.
He was totally freaking out. Surrounded!
Meanwhile Daphne decided to play it cool and stood sniffing delicately at the lavender. “Chickens? I care not a jot for chickens. How deadly dull…”
Whereas Maris was baleful. She was full of bale.
“Why are these birds too bloody big to eat?”
So now we have happy chooks. Contented chooks. Clucky chooks. In the space of a few hours they’ve gone over every inch of the backyard. They were going very close to my veggie garden that didn’t have a fence around it, so I called Ryan3 and we put the old manky fence back up. I kid you not, it took those bloody leghorns just 5 minutes to start eying off my veggies. They were crowding that fence like groupies sighting a rock band.
“Look, Martha. Could that be silver beet?”
While the hens were out exploring the backyard, the dogs decided to do a little exploring of their own.
Molly was the first to go in, while Bertie took a little longer to work up the courage. Maybe he was scared that the chooks would gang up on him when they came back.
But once they were inside… oh my! What intoxicating smells and tastes awaited them. It was really quite gross. They spent at least 2 hours inside that pen, picking up old bits of bread that the hens had rejected, and old bits of stuff that the hens had excreted and discovered the joys of sampling the chicken food. Plus their bedding…. so aromatic and soft….
It got very crowded when the girls decided to swing by for a quick snack. They just pushed the dogs out of the way and had a quick feed before setting off again. Molly decided to make herself at home. Usually this pose, with the front paw curled up, is pictured on aristocratic portaits by world-renowned artists, where the dog is ensconced on a silken pillow.
There she is on the bare earth by the water bowl, smelling of eau de chook. Noice.
David2 is still raising the silkie chicks inside. It occurred to me that introducing the two sets of birds would be easier on neutral ground, and hopefully that would mean that we could then just shovel them all into their new big run when it’s built in a month’s time. So we brought out the babies. These ones are still small enough for the animals to attack, so we had to be very watchful. But it all went well.
The dogs were great. the only time it got dicey was when Dennis (the menace) got scared and fluttered. Molly was right onto that and it was only a quick lunge to grab the collar from David2 that averted disaster. The interesting thing was when the older chickens noticed the young ones. It took them quite a while… I think the feedom they were experiencing was intoxicating.
If we had’ve put these chicks in the run, my girls would have probably pecked them to death. As it was… they weren’t all that interested. The plan is to let them out together every day, then hopefully when they all go into the run they will get along with a minimum of pecking order stuff.
About an hour ago I saw this:
Willow, the one with the gammy leg, wanted to go back into the coop. But something was making her hesitate.
Bertie. That dog can sleep anywhere.
Willow got up all her bravery and reached in and gave him a gentle peck.
Bertie opened a bleary eye, but then Willow backed off. Maris had jumped on the roof and was eying her off.
Then some of the other girls turned up. Maggie was a little intimidated, but not so Buffy! She’s not named after a vampire slayer for nothing. In she marched, pushing past him as if he wasn’t even there.
Bertie disappeared from view…
… and then reappeared.
This time, he considerately left some space at the side for easy access. Then he snored for an hour.
All in all, it couldn’t have gone better. I have another week of holidays. so we’ll be able to get the girls used to their new surroundings before we go back to school. The idea is that when we’re at school, the girls are in their big run, when that’s built. Whoever comes home first can let them out so they can free range and keep the weeds down. I’m hoping this system will give everyone the best of both worlds.
I’ve got to say, it was very warming to see just how industrious and happy they were. The deep leaf litter at the foot of the fig tree seems to be heaven for hens.