Running Hens

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.

6And then, the more adventurous ones headed all over, exploring the barnyard, while the more timid ones chose to stay in the pen all day.

5They 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.

7

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.

4When the afternoon sun came around they all found good spots and started their sunbathing and dust baths.

9 10And then one of the Black Australorps discovered the sheep stall.  The sheep were a bit surprised at their new visitor, but allowed her to stay.  She marched around the stall as if she owned the place.

8Then she decided that maybe this would be a good place to nestle down and lay an egg.  First she tried a pile of hay.

2But then she spotted an even better spot.  The sheep hay manger.

1I 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.

3 thoughts on “Running Hens

  1. Oh gosh yes, they are hysterical when they run. Even more funny from behind than from in front. Head down, bum extended back, drumsticks pumping and they cover the ground at a good clip. It gets even better when they start flapping to add airspeed. This is reserved for those times when they realise a human is holding a tasty morsel and there are other chickens in the lead. A little chook foot race ensues and I laugh my head off.

    The free range thing is kind of stressful at first. I started out by luring my girls back to their run an hour before bedtime because I didn’t want them bedding down in a strange place. That was a waste of time, they ALWAYS go home to roost. As for laying in strange spots? never. Only once did the girls decide to abandon their normal laying box and that was when a cat scared them. They all moved to lay in a new safe spot, laid in that spot every day for a couple of weeks, then shifted back to the safe spot in their run. I think they don’t like change and I am sure they know their run and coop are the safest place for them and their eggs. But sun bathing and dust baths are much better anywhere but their run !

    Who knew chickens were so adorable, eh?

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  2. We love watching our chickens free range. You are right when they want to get from point A to point B they can move. We find it very calming to watch them as they go along a scratching and a pecking. They also eat less feed when they can forage and I don’t think there is a cricket left in our yard.
    love the fluffy butts remark, in the fall here when the leaves are down sometimes all you see is the fluffy butt, the rest is buried in the leaves.
    Ed

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  3. They do look remarkably funny when they run. Although when I have a whole flock running straight on at me, it does put me in mind of the velociraptor scene in Jurassic Park. I’m sure the reluctant ones will take to ranging given a few days. And we do still find random eggs about the place. We had one who would do it in a box on the back porch every day for 3 months! Then she found a new place. But the majority of the girls lay in the nesting boxes even though they range all over the place..

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