Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I, chicken jailer.

My chickens are probably going to unionize. And I don't blame them. After all, I am forcing them to work under less than ideal conditions.
But let me explain my side of the story.
Since we first talked about getting hens, Mian and I took it for granted that they would range freely across the orchard. They would fertilise the orchard even as they ate pests; they would increase our harvests even as they gave us eggs.
Sexy (L) and Red, half of our first flock and still going strong
When the first three hens and one rooster came, we realised that rather than go into the orchard, the hens went straight to my seedlings. We then fashioned a movable coop for them. This 'chicken tractor' was never ideal. Wheels don't work on a terraced landscape, and with a light tubing coop, the birds would be vulnerable to every opportunistic intruder. Instead the thing we created out of salvaged wood was mobile only with much effort- it required four strong men to lift it.

Cages are necessary for all seedlings and young plants. And I am tired of a jail-themed garden
And very soon, we outgrew that space. The birds then free ranged for quite a while. As the flock grew, so did my complaints. My garden was being destroyed; and they were causing erosion on all the slopes.
This wall once had ferns on it. And erigeron, and mint.

We tried making a run for them, but  they flew over it.

And so now, they are confined to their coop for the larger part of the day. I let them out in the late morning for an hour or two to let them dustbathe and then I let them back out at 430 till they decide to return to the coop to roost.
The barricade. Now that they are used to the idea, I no longer need the top panel. A waist-high barricade is enough.

How do they like it? More or less, they seem to be fine with the idea. When I shoo them in after their morning outing, they go willingly, except for the poults. And their problem is not so much that they don't like the coop but that their elders harass them. The chicks are vulnerable, so I usually let them and their mothers stay out a bit  longer.

What 'extra' do we need to do to keep them happy? That's in the next post!
Room service

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