Posted by: juliegirl | August 9, 2009

free-ranging

100_1692There’s something terrific about watching a chicken be a chicken. Scratching, foraging, running across the yard after another chicken with a worm–all terrific, natural chicken activities. It makes for great eggs, too. When a chicken gets to eat all the bugs and veggies she wants, the eggs are just more tasty. Since I’ve been allowing the girls to free-range in the backyard, I’ve noticed their eggs have been more rich and flavorful.

At first, I was nervous about letting them roam free. I’ve seen rats in the banana trees and who knows what else is out there just waiting to prey on defenseless birds? At first they roamed with supervision, then I graduated to “just when I’m home for a few hours on a Saturday.” Then, I watched a cat almost get pecked by six chickens on his way through the yard and I figured they could hold their own. That, and the fact that, as it gets dark, they are now properly roosting IN their coop (and not just on top of it…or on top of the barbeque grill) gives me more confidence. If the coop doors are open, nothing’s really preventing a rat or cat or possum from going up the ramp and attacking the sleeping birds at night, so I typically go out and shut the door after 6:00 when they retire.

I’ve got the compost cycle tightened up, too. Coffee grounds, egg shells, onions, garlic, and paper go into the compost tumbler.  When I scrape the chicken poop out of the coop or rake their litter (ceder shavings) off of the floor of the coop, that goes in the tumbler. All other vegetable scraps and leftovers without meat or eggs go to the chickens. This makes the compost creation faster and lets my girls have lots of fruits and veggies. (They shouldn’t eat onions and garlic, though, as it will make their eggs taste funky. And no egg shells unless you want them to get a taste for eggs and start eating their own. Yuck.)

They have taken over, however. Just a few days ago, I caught Evangeline standing in the squash bed just scratching herself silly. Two pumpkins, gone. And they’ve pooped all over the concrete which is kind of gross. I think I’ll try to set up some kind of fencing or maybe a mesh curtain I can put up when they’re free-ranging to keep them in the yard and out of the garden. (I’m thinking zip line, a couple carabiners, and some cloth fencing.) For now, I’ll just delight in opening the back door and seeing THIS.

100_1683Ascension, on tree stump.

100_1693Eating table scraps.

See for yourself what the free-ranging is all about.


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