We are so happy to have the chickens free-ranging in the barnyard. They are extremely happy too! I can see the difference in their demeanor when they are out – they love it!
There are a few drawbacks to this new scenario though. First:
Why is this a drawback? Because my friend had her best layer drown in their goat’s water trough. So it makes me very nervous that they have decided the sheep water trough is a good place to hang out. Plus, soon they will have access to the cow water trough, which is bigger and much deeper. Much easier to drown in.
To try to prevent drowning I have put a piece of welded wire, that was actually originally part of a dog crate, in the trough at a slant. It fits just right and I am hoping that it is enough to help any bird that might fall in to get out. I will do the same with the cow water trough.
And here is the other downfall, remember that chicken that decided the sheep manger was a good nest? Well she happened to be one of the 4 we recently sold so I thought that problem was over. But today I noticed a RIR head into the sheep stall with purpose. Sure enough, she was nesting in the manger. The sheep seemed less than amused at their visitor and her location.
Look in the back left of this photo, you can see Fiona at the manger and the hen’s tail sticking up: Sure enough, after a bit, she started singing the “I laid and egg” song and I went over to investigate.
Despite the few, minor, downfalls of free-ranging the chickens, we are still very excited to keep this set-up for them. The pros far outweigh the cons. They are eating WAY less of their store-bought feed. They are happier and thus healthier. Their eggs are going to have higher nutritional value. And the compost pile is turning into dirt before our eyes as the ladies (and gent) work on it each day.