Today was a big day for the girls. The door to their “coop plus run” was opened and they were let out. Since yesterday morning, they’ve been trying to sneak out every time I open the door for more than a few seconds but we wanted them to be really comfortable in their coop before we gave them free range status.
Their initial response to being let out was to grab a quick blade of grass, look around nervously, flutter and jump, make their friends flutter and jump, grab a quick blade of grass… But soon it was all heads down, bums up and any wasteful nervous activity was a distant memory. In fact getting a photo of their heads became a bit of a problem. I must have taken 10 photos of tail feathers before I got a reasonable profile shot.
I put feed & water outside so they don’t have to go in to eat. I’ll pick up the feed box at night. They wander past and take a nibble, but mainly they prefer scratching and eating whatever they find just under the surface. Unless a bird flies past or screeches in the distance (cockatoos seem particularly ominous), when they freeze, squat low and look towards the heavens. Do cockatoos sound like chicken-eating-birds-of-prey perhaps? To my girls they clearly do.
After a couple of hours they were comfortable enough in their new-and-improved environment to start taking a break from all that foraging in the shelter of the plants that they seem determined to uproot. I’m guessing chickens don’t understand the complex concept that scratching all the dirt at the base of a plant and pecking its stem and leaves will mean it won’t be there to shelter under in a few weeks. Cute, yes – bright, maybe not.
Their extended run is fox-proof with chicken wire dug into the ground – except for a very temporary gate (that the chickens could break down if they all threw themselves at it at once). But we still intend to lock them in their coop at night. They have been all roosting together on one of the 2 roosts and hopefully they’re cosy enough in there to not bother attempting to roost in the orange tree which is in their enclosure.
Now comes the slowish process of getting them to be friendly little pets, not just egg machines. Bronwyn will eat from my hand but isn’t happy if I try to touch her. The others just stare longingly from a distance if I hold out a snack. But they are already comfortable with me, if I’m on the outside of the fence, they all move to that side of their enclosure to be near me. Near, but not too near!