Ever have a misbehaving hen who has to have things her own way? A runaround girl who sneaks off to a secret rendezvous with the chicks next door? A free ranger who takes advantage of her privileges? A layer who doesn’t think the nice nest you made her is good enough?
We were noticing that we were getting less eggs than usual for a few days. Disconcerting, to be sure. We were wondering if something was awry with one of our layers.
It should have occurred to us. We’ve seen the girls trying to cross the road a few times. Why didn’t we think of it sooner?
One night I was out teaching voice lessons and I got a text from my husband: “Someone’s been laying next door. There’s a full dozen blue eggs at the bottom of the neighbor’s driveway.”
Blue eggs- the clues led to the answer. Yes, the neighbors have chickens. But theirs are all brown layers- they don’t have Ameraucanas. And yes, it’s the neighbor with the goats. Maybe our neighbors will have to start a blog called, “They’re Not Our Chickens.”
We decided that the girls would have to be grounded til they got their act together. Back in the coop they went for three or four days. My hubby put up a temporary fence to give them a paddocked area for more ranging right in the middle of the grass. You’re on probation, chickies. Get used to it.
But that one sly hen kept flying the coop (literally). She managed to get out of the short-term paddock almost every day, so we had to keep opening up the coop door to let her back in again anyway.
Ten more eggs in the neighbor’s driveway. This free-range thing just wasn’t working. (But at least the alternate nest was in a predictable place.)
Tim tried again. He moved the coop to the perimeter of our yard, near the edge of a wooded area. He re-set up the fencing around the compost bin and some decent forage. He made sure this time to enclose the paddock more securely.
So far, so good. The birds seem much more content here than they did in the grassy circle they had the week before. We’re starting to get the proper amount of eggs again- in the nesting boxes instead of a driveway. And that rogue hen? She’s only managed to fly out once so far.
While I enjoyed having free range chickens, we decided that this is still pretty close to ranging them. They have a decently large area with compost, bugs, fresh growing plants, lots of leaves and dirt to dig through- AND they’re right near our spring-fed mini-pond. What more could they ask for?
We wanted to give the birds freedom. But apparently they couldn’t handle too much freedom. Will we try free ranging again? Oh, maybe after a while. But for now, they’re happy, healthy, safe- and learning to be well-behaved. Which is, after all, what any chicken mama would want for her babies.