Yesterday the chickens escaped from their run. It wasn’t much of an escape, they just ended up in the backyard and Frank and I were there, but it put me on notice that I really do need to make sure I latch the gate after delivering treats. By “latch” I mean secure with a twist-tie because the gate is temporary, but if it is just leaning shut, the girls will push through to greener pastures.
They didn’t seem all that excited to be free. The wandered around, checking out the local flora – and sometimes a bit of fauna if it was small and slow enough.
They made it all the way up to the side gate (which I’d shut when I saw they were out of their run) but they didn’t bother trying to get past that gate. I suppose they had plenty to explore in the back yard.
All 3 sauntered past the herb bed without tasting anything. It’s green and luscious looking to me, but maybe the aroma was off-putting to them.
After exploring and nibbling for 15 minutes or so, they took advantage of the full sun (they only get dappled sun in their run at this time of year) to work on their tans. They roll and fluff their feathers in the sun. As all of them do it and have done it since they first stepped in a strong ray of sunshine, I can only assume it is natural behaviour. It sure looks silly though.
Something like 3 minutes of sunbathing was enough, then they were up and at it again. The whole thing ended with Frank catching one after the other (Bronwyn was the only one to even feign resistance) and carrying them back to their run with me acting as gate-keeper (I think chook-wrangling is always going to be a 2 person job). I’m sure if we hadn’t been doing such regular socialising with them we’d have had quite a challenge on our hands.
Within 30 seconds of capture they’d escaped again because I went in to get their treat plate and they followed me back out of their run (oh dear). When I brought the treat plate back (filled) they followed me right back in.
We don’t plan to let them out of their run (holes in the fence, vegetables we’d rather they didn’t eat) but Frank’s working on a portable run so we can move them to fresh sproutings of clover and full sun every once in a while.
Update, a few hours later: Well, we let them out again today. It was a beautiful morning and Frank was working in the backyard on their moveable run. I decided I’d sit back there with a book and let the hens truly free range. What I did was spend quite a bit of time following them around and stopping them from eating my cabbages or moseying down to where I know there’s a chicken-sized hole in the fence.
I’m guessing we did this for about an hour and a half when Isabel wandered back into their run (thirsty? craving chicken feed?). I followed her with a handful of chopped grapes and all 3 of the chooks ran to me for their treat. No problem re-cooping them at all.
Still I really want that moveable run so I don’t have to sit and watch them like a hawk. I managed to read about 2 pages of my book in 90 minutes inbetween herding and moving the chickens.