Tag / free range

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Happy Chickens

Three fluffy bottoms

Finally, a day with sunshine.  The girls were just dying to get out and into the mulch and the woodland garden near their coop.  So, out the three big girls came.  The Silkies were content to remain inside of the run, so with camera in tow, we had some fun exploring.

Discoveries in the garden

You can always tell when a chicken is enjoying herself, when you see her fluffy bottom pointed straight up in the air.  You know that she is busy scratching and discovering wonderful bugs!

They make me laugh as they talk to each other.  It is truly one big party when they free-range.  They mix up their vantage points but are alway careful not to dig where a friend has just been.  They are smart that way.  They know when to move on.  They know when there are better things in better areas.  They love to scavenge and I love to feel their full crops in my hand when I pick them up and nuzzle into their feathers.
Oyster Cracker in scratching action

Unfortunately, they cannot free range at free will.  There are too many predators in the conservation property right next door.  So, to keep them safe from coyotes, foxes, hawks and the like, they are babysat when they free range.  It never seems to be enough time for them.  Today, I think they were just happy to be out and about, enjoying the sunshine and being spoiled chickens.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Numbered Days

Yesterday’s weather was a Spring teaser.  Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining.  In late afternoon, I decided to let the flock free-range.  They were so happy.  Chocolate was especially feeling good.  He was definitely the one in charge dictating each new destination in the yard to the girls.  He was also spoiling them with each new treat he found, generously giving them to each of his girls.

My almost 4 year old daughter was out there with me as well.  She loves to visit each chicken, say hello and stroke their heads and backs.  The chickens enjoy her company too.  To be completely honest, I was a little nervous about having her out there with Chocolate, but I was there.  I gave her a quick reminder on rooster etiquette and closely monitored their interactions.  I was never more than 5 feet away from her at any time.  Chocolate usually loves her holding him and showering him with affections.  For the most part, the chickens that like her best are Chocolate and Feathers.

Standing there, I noticed that the waterer was dirty.  I took it out of the coop and tilted the waterer to the side; refreshing the water.  All of a sudden, I heard my daughter scream.  I literally looked away for about 15 seconds and Chocolate decided to give her a warning.  He seized the small crack in the window of opportunity.  I quickly grabbed my daughter and tried to figure out what had happened.  She was shaken and said that Chocolate had pecked her on the knee.  I saw no marks.  Once she was consoled, I walked over, picked up Chocolate and returned him to the closed coop and run. 

I decided in my heart of heart I needed to act sooner than later.  I could never forgive myself if something that I can prevent from happening indeed happens.  I called a local friend with a farm.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Free At Last

Yesterday, I let part of the flock out for a little while to free range.  Those days seem so few and far between during the Winter.  Here they are in action.

Oyster Cracker

 

Oyster Cracker struts around the yard with a certain grace and attitude.  She commands attention from the flock just with her sheer size.  She is so graceful and dignified.  I think she knows it too.

 

Outside the run
Chocolate

 

Here the girls find snacks that my kids most likely dropped on the ground.  It is now fair game outside of the run!  I bet it is some scratch that the kids like to call chicken trail mix.   Chocolate was also incredibly sassy and bragging to all humans and the girls that he was feeling especially good.  I had to pick him up for a while and remind him just who is boss around here.  He was not too happy about that.

Finds in the grass

Sunshine loves to inspect every little details before she pecks.  She is cautious and meticulous with everything that she puts in her mouth.  She is also our noisiest girl.  Often she will do this call that sound like an angry yell.  She seems so upset about something and she want the world to know all about it.

 

Feathers                                                                                        Chickens in a row

Dainty and so very tiny, feathers is just that most adorable ball of fluff.  She is like a little black snowball flitting around the yard.  She is fast.  She is sweet and often comes to me first when free ranging for a visit.  Sometimes she likes to be picked up but most times she is just coming in to say hi and get a little reassurance.

Fluffy bottoms

One of my favorite things about the chickens are their beautiful fluffy bottoms.  The feathers are so different in this area; downylike.  When bending over eating, they remind me of light and airy clouds.  I love their fluffy bottoms!

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Crossing the Road

Today I did a major clean out of the garage.  While I was doing this, I figured that the flock could get a little extra time free ranging this morning and early afternoon.  As I was cleaning, I checked on the chickens now and then. 

Tilly, the Australorp, is the head hen.  Wherever Tilly goes, the flock follows.  It is so adorable now to see Tilly and Chocolate dominate the flock’s whereabouts.  Through my research, I have learned when chickens free range, they allow the head hen to lead them to new places.  Australorps apparently like to remain close to their coop, never wandering too far.  I thought that this would be a good thing.

Since I have had them, they have never been more than 15 feet from their coop.  They typically are content using the driveway as their barrier and remaining on one side with their coop and run.  Despite all my efforts of coaxing and chicken talk they have never strayed from their usual favorite spots.  However, today something changed.

The flock today stepped onto the pea stone gravel in the driveway.  They were having so much fun picking up stones and throwing them down.  I watched as they picked up their feet staring curiously at the bottoms.  The rocks must have felt different from the the grass, woods and mulch that they typically roamed through.  This lasted for about 20 minutes.  What fun they had!

Then I went over to the lush green lawn, virgin chicken territory.   I squatted down and pretended to be a chicken.  Curious about my actions, they looked up.  Suddenly as if walking across molten lava, they came to me.  The chickens crossed the metaphorical road over the driveway and into the lawn.  It did not last long.  Their time was brief.  When they decided to return closer to home, they fled as if a coyote was chasing them.  They hopped and flew back with poor little Feathers trailing behind.  I wonder if and when they will do it again?  I’m glad that they crossed over the driveway.  It opened up a potentially whole new world for them.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Do they understand me?

I really do believe so.  Before I had chickens, I wasn’t really sure how smart they were.  I thought that they were cute and all and had come to the conclusion that would be enough for me to start raising them.   All the girls seem smart.  Tilly knows her name.  When they are free ranging outside and I do not see them immediately, I just have to call her name and she comes out from where she is.  It is so adorable because as head hen, wherever Tilly goes, the others follow.  They all run to me so fast.  Sometimes giddy in fact.  But contrary to belief, they are not looking for food, they are sometimes just looking for love.

Yep,  my chickens love to be loved.  They each take their turns.  Depending on their personalities, some like to be held and snuggled like little babies and some just love a good stroking of their sides, back and underbellies.  You may even think that I am crazy, but I love the way they smell too.  They smell warm, sweet and comforting.  Next time you are with your girls, give them a smell.  I promise it will warm your heart.

The girls also recognize their favorite treats.  I can put many different ones inside of the run but they always like broccoli, grapes and strawberries the best.  At first, I thought that it was the red coloring of the strawberry that they were attracted to but the other treats proved me wrong.

The girls also can spot danger.  Oyster Cracker always serves as the lookout.  When she sees something out of the corner of her eye, she lets out almost a low growl of a dog.  The chickens stand perfectly still and stop whatever they are doing.  I can pick them up easily when they are doing this because they are just like lawn statues.

They have their own language.  I am trying to decode it but they all understand it.  Some of their favorite chicken lines express happiness, I found something, don’t do that to me, come here, follow me, where are you,  let’s snuggle.

I believe that some of these things are born into them and they just being chickens know how to do these things, but I truly do believe that they experience emotions, have a pretty high level of intelligence and have social rules and orders.