I was originally content with parakeets and our two faithful canine companions, Daisy and Rusty. But watching my sisters, who were deeply involved in the poultry business, opened my eyes to new possibilities. I realized that life, and chickens, were passing me by.
So we headed to Orschelns to see what we could find. And guess what? Of course we found chicks! So we bought some and brought them home. I had lived 30 years and never yet been the proud owner of poultry. I was just as excited as the children. We tended the brooder carefully and watched them grow.
As they matured, I let my happy little flock free range whenever I was outside. That soon turned into letting them free range all day even if I was in the house. It was wonderful. At first. The chickens loved it, especially when the mulberries started falling. There was free chicken food all over the place!
I really believed that Daisy and Rusty would obey me and stay away from my precious hens. And Daisy did, if I was outdoors. Then she stayed far away from the chickens. She did her best to convince me of her innocent intentions by not even LOOKING at the chickens. And I believed her.
But my complacency about allowing the hens out of their yard while I was gone soon backfired on me. We came home to scattered feathers, very guilty dogs, and missing chickens.
So it was best to just lock the birds in their chicken run. You would think these feathered fowl would appreciate my concern for their well being. But did they? Do chickens realize the danger that lurks outside their safe haven? Oh no! They didn’t remember the fate that had befallen their late sister hens. They would clumsily flap, flop, and try to fly over the fence. Some of them succeeded. A few of them survived. One pretty little hen took a daily foray under the gate and into the particular spot in the straw where she laid her egg. She is a clever one and still faithfully lays her pretty green eggs for us. Thankfully, she does it in the nesting box these days.
All of you seasoned chicken owners may be quite horrified by my negligence. I certainly learned a few things:
- Don’t trust your dogs’ innocence concerning chickens, no matter what they try to tell you.
- Don’t think for a moment that a silly hen will learn from her fellow hen or rooster’s fate.
- A chicken will soar over fences on wings of blissful ignorance to reach freedom. That same chicken’s ability to fly to safety over the same fence vanishes the moment they are being pursued by aforementioned predators.
We took steps to protect our little flock from our beloved dogs. We clipped their wings. My little easter egger can no longer sneak under the fence. The flock stays in their run, all the time, no matter what. Our chicken feed bill went up. And egg yolks aren’t as nice an orange.
I’d much prefer to have free range hens.
I can think of a couple solutions to this dilemma. One would be to kennel the dogs while the chickens free range. Maybe they could take turns. Or we could re-home the dogs. That’s not an option. Daisy is an excellent little mother and raised a lovely batch of puppies for us last year. Daisy and Rusty were here first… so really, their status on the farm must be considered.
My final and most practical solution is to build a chicken tractor. I have casually mentioned the project to Gabe. I don’t think he knows it yet, but I suspect we may have a lovely little chicken tractor available for use sometime this spring. Perhaps I’ll even build it myself. Although I find in much easier to pinterest an idea like that, than to actually do it.
While it seems like it should be quite easy to have a few hens around to supply us in eggs, real life gets in the way sometimes. Accidents and forgetfulness happen. Let’s be real, we don’t always get it right the first time around. Many of the pretty hens in these photos are no longer with us. We learn from our mistakes, try to do a better job, and want to be good stewards of the things God has given us.
I am looking forward to this spring and new growth and life on our few acres. A chance to do better at protecting my hens from the dangers lurking at their doorstep. I have a brooder of eight chicks to add to my flock, and we’re hoping for lots of fresh eggs to come. And maybe a young rooster or two for dinner someday.
Because really, I can’t let Daisy eat them all.