Have you ever seen a hen run? Not just scurry around a pen, but actually full-out run straight across a wide span of space going from point A to point B with purpose? It is so funny! They have a gait unlike any I have ever seen before. Today was the first day I saw a hen run like that.
We finished the preparations to the fencing and the sheep stall so that the chickens could finally free-range in the barnyard. Last night we clipped one wing on each of the hens to keep them from getting up and over the 6 foot fencing. And this morning, for the first time ever, the hens had free-range.
I opened their door wide and stood back to see what they would do. Some of the girls acted like they have walked out that door every day of their lives, others were more timid. They all hung out near their pen at first.
They spent most of their day beaks to the ground, fluffy bums in the air scratching and pecking. They were in chicken heaven with all the things they were finding to try out for food. I was surprised, the Buff Orpingtons and Salt (the bantam mix) definitely did the most foraging of all the birds and were the least scared to be out. The 4 of them were out the entire day while the RIRs and Black Australorps came and went throughout the day. The 3 Ameraucanas only came out of the pen once and it was for a very short amount of time and then they wouldn’t come out again. I hope they settle into the new life and decide it is worth it to wander and forage.
They did excellent with the dog and he with them. It was as if they have all lived in the same pen their whole lives. And the dog definitely seemed pleased to have more livestock to actively protect.
I picked her up and took her back around and into the coop to try to deter her from this new spot, but she just scolded me and ran right back to her new-found nest. I figured this is probably just something we will have to live with as a side-effect of free-ranging. I guess there are worse places to lay an egg. After awhile she came out of there and went into the coop to lay her egg. I guess she decided it wasn’t a good place after all. I still think we will be finding eggs here and there occasionally.
They all easily came into the pen when I called them and gave them dinner scraps. I’d say it was a successful first day of free-ranging the chickens and we are looking forward to the benefits of doing this from now on.