Free Range Chickens!

Free rangin'

Free rangin'

That’s right, it’s official!  I have free-range, organic chickens!  Yippee!  After the initial trepidation about leaving the safe, warm coop for the great unknown, the chickies have been all about being outside, and while on day one, only Lady B ventured out the door and into the yard, starting yesterday, they have all become part-time free-range chickens.  When I opened the chicken doors yesterday morning, Lady B came flying out with everyone else close on her heels.  Yesterday afternoon, Brian and I went out to encourage them out into the greater yard and found that there was no need; they came hopping out the door as soon as we opened it.  The rest is history.

An Ameraucana enjoys some grass

An Ameraucana enjoys some grass

I can’t believe how easy it is, actually.  They come out the door and immediately start scratching around in the grass, nibbling on plants and catching bugs.  Some venture a little further than others, but mostly they stick close to the run and they go in and out frequently.  Sometimes one will go around to the other side of the run and won’t be able to figure out how to get back in or to the other side.  Then the frantic running back and forth along the wire wall ensues – same as when they get into the “people side” of the coop.  Anyway, that just takes a quick ushering back to the other side and the problem is solved.

"Do I have something in my teeth?"

"Do I have something in my teeth?"

And getting them back in is easy as pie… they don’t go far and they tend to put themselves away after a while anyway, but if need be you can just sort of walk behind them and usher them in.  I always do a headcount to make sure before I close them in the run or coop, and that’s it.

Lady B also enjoys the grass

Lady B also enjoys the grass

Now, I say they are only part-time free-range chickens because that is, unfortunately, all they’ll ever be.  Too many creatures in this world enjoy a good chicken dinner.  Or lunch.  Or Breakfast.  Or snack.  You see my point.  Their safety is my number one priority and too many dangerous things can go over, under, around, or through fences, or can swoop down from the skies for them to ever free-range unattended.  That’s the whole point of the fortress-run.  Our entire coop and run are surrounded by a 6-inch-thick, 12-inch-deep concrete trench with 1/2-inch wire mesh (hardware cloth) set in it and either stapled to the bottom of the coop or covering the entire run, including the top.  I wish they could be out in the greater yard all day, every day, but they just can’t.  I already feel like one is going to get snatched up when I’m not looking.  I think I’ll feel better when they’re bigger (I hope).

Anyway, they do seem to be enjoying the run and don’t complain about being closed in there at all.

rangin' in the run

rangin' in the run

Our loveley Marans model shows us the doorway to the run.

Our loveley Marans model shows us the doorway to the run.

Yes, those are empty and overturned yogurt bowls in the run.  Chickens are messy, what can I say?  That chick in the picture is one I am hoping is a girl.  Here is a closeup, since she was posing.

A girl?

A girl?

I hope I hope I hope!

Oh yeah, and I got a pic of some sunbathing on the open doors.

lounging in the sun
lounging in the sun
This is the lightest of the three “chipmunk” Ameraucana chicks, and she is also a pro at laying underneath the heat lamps and spreading her wings and drinking in that lovely warmth.  I keep getting the feeling that this tendncy is lending itself to a name for her, but I haven’t quite put my finger on it yet….
Also today, JB did some lovely posing for the camera, to show us how his big-boy rooster growth is coming along.  His wattles and tail seem to grow by the hour!
JB struts his stuff

JB struts his stuff

JB checks out the handle of my garden trowel

JB checks out the handle of my garden trowel

A good shot of his tail, which is starting to curve, just slightly

A good shot of his tail, which is starting to curve, just slightly

Brian
Brian is trying to make friends with Lady B, but he hasn’t spent much time with the chickies, so it is a work in progress.  I am doing my best not to say, “HA!  She’s MY girl and you can’t have her!”  It’s not easy for me.  However, I want my chickens to be friendly with everyone, so I actually do want her to make friends with other people.  A couple of others are starting to show a little potential for being petable as well… but nothing of note yet.  I’ll keep you posted.
Brian offers his hand to Lady B

Brian offers his hand to Lady B

And since we’re talking about Brian, I will mention that I “accidentally” got the awesomest picture today.
AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

He swears he’s not wearing ladies’ granny-panties but I think the picture says otherwise.  You be the judge :)
"OMG!"

"OMG!"

I think this chick agrees with me.  Shocking!
Anyway, sadly, this is supposed to be the end of the nice weather for a while again.  So, I’m not sure what I’ll do now that they’re used to coming out every day.  I guess I’ll just play it by ear.  If it’s raining but not super cold or windy, I guess I’ll open their doors and see what they do.  But, if it’s super cold and windy, I think I’ll leave them locked up snugly for the day.  They’re still suceptible to chills until they’re fully feathered (no more fuzzy butts and heads), which should be at about 8 weeks – they’ll be 5 weeks tomorrow.
Also, my parents and brother are coming for a visit this weekend and we’ve got plans to do tons of yard and garden work.  Brian is finishing the boxes as we speak.  Today I started lining the bottoms with hardware cloth (that stuff is awesome) and I placed the order for the organic garden soil, which is coming on Monday morning.  Also today, my last apple tree was delivered, so our mini-orchard is complete (or will be when we plant this one).  Our fruit trees:
Apples:
  • Silken
  • Gold Rush (best apple I’ve ever eaten)
  • Corail
  • Ellison’s Orange

Pears:

  • White Doyenne (Alice Waters’ favorite!)
  • Bella Di Giugno

Cherries:

  • English Morello (tart)
  • Montmorency (tart)
  • Sweetheart (sweet)
  • Hartland (sweet)

Apricots:

  • Puget Gold
  • Harglow

Peaches:

  • Frost
  • Indian Blood Free (grown by Thomas Jefferson)

Plums

  • Schoolhouse
  • Kirke’s Blue

Also on Monday, my baby, own-roots old garden roses are supposed to be delivered.  Yippee!!!!

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2 thoughts on “Free Range Chickens!

  1. Hello! I wondered how my chicks will look at 4-6 weeks, and your site gave several perfect examples! Your run and description sounds really well thought out, and using the stiff wire is something I’m considering. I have a concrete floor being set tomorrow, and an apx 20 foot run being built. I have nine chinks that are 3 weeks old, and will be hatching out several more when they arrive in egg form! So glad another is finding joy in chicks–take care and enjoy! Beth

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