Out and Proud

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!

About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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4 Responses to Out and Proud

  1. Oh it looks as though they are going to be lots of fun. You certainly prepped the garden well for them to keep them safe.

  2. The garden is prepped to keep them safe, but what will keep the garden safe? They are scratching up everything. I predict that within 6 months there won’t be a bit of green left in their enclosure. My husband thinks that’s a lot of destruction for 3 small birds. I hope he’s right. I give them treats every day (today chopped squash and tomatoes) to give them variety and in the vain hope that it will slow down their mowing of the plant life. Of course their favourite thing to do with the treats I give them is to scratch them into the ground. *sigh*

  3. Seasonsgirl says:

    We raised our chickens from 5 day old babies and touching them daily to get them use to it. They will come up to us now and stay still for petting or if we have to move them. Keep trying they will get use to it. Ours have also have gotten use to our dogs. I remeber the first time this set of “girls” got to get out of their run… they were timid at first, but now they run and squawk… what a sight. Sounds like they will have a good life with you.

  4. I wonder if I should have tried 5 day olds. Maybe next time I’ll be brave enough. I have to say chickens are easy creatures to care for. And I’m alerady seeing them growing comfortable with me. Yesterday I took a book out and sat and read in their run and Rosie came and sat next to my foot and then rolled and leaned against me. I’m encouraged to hear yours let you pet them. I think we’re going to get along famously.

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