Now that the garden is almost entirely harvested — with the exception of some winter variety carrots, the Walla Walla onions (I don’t want to pull them just yet, since they don’t keep well), the pumpkins and the late corn — we decided that it was time to let the chickens go free from their fenced-in run.
The thought here is that they can scratch around and eat bugs and larvae in the garden. This helps us out by decimating overwintering bugs and adding fresh manure (which will have time to become not-so-fresh by next spring), and the chickens benefit from all the fresh forage.
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I wasn’t sure if we would be letting the chickens wander free after dealing with a year of them pooping constantly on our back deck. It was gross, it made enjoying the backyard almost impossible and I didn’t like it one bit. But the truth is I am a big old soft sap when it comes to my animals, and I felt bad about them being cooped up all the time. It seems like a sad way to live.
So here they are now. Free-ranging chookers!
The Puddle Ducks are a bit outraged by this.
There has been a good deal of complaining from them but, then again, there usually is. The ducks are nothing if not easily outraged (no, not true, lies).
The ducks and the chickens have mostly stuck to their own areas, although I have seen them all rummaging happily together in my raised strawberry bed. Or, what used to be my raised strawberry bed, anyway.
We were a little worried, however, about how Flower would react to seeing her old flock again, and how they would react to her.
We had a bit of an incident this summer when my best friend’s little boy put Flower back in the coop with the rest of the chickens. He thought she’d escaped, gathered her up, put her in with the others and proudly came to tell us.
You might want to read: The Trials and Tribulations of Flower
He didn’t know any better, and no real harm was done. Meri and I rushed in and rescued her, and returned her to the safety of the Puddle Ducks.
I’d hoped she’d learned her lesson and wouldn’t go anywhere near the chickens when we released them from the run, and for awhile she didn’t, but then this morning I watched as she sidled closer and closer to Wilhelm. He tolerated it for exactly zero seconds before he attacked her, spurs flashing. The other hens ran at her too, eager to get their own lethal pecks in.
Aghast, I jumped up and was almost to the door to go intervene before I saw the Puddle Ducks coming at a fast (for ducks) run. Led by our little brown runner duck, Nutkin, the ducks put on a show of bravado and solidarity against the chickens (no, go away).
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Even though they have absolutely no means of defense against sharp beaks and spurs, they forced the chookers away from Flower and then kept her in the middle of their group for the rest of the afternoon.
Loyal little buggers (no, no be mean; slow not-duck is ours).
I don’t think I’ll have to worry about Flower getting picked on anymore.
Meanwhile, Rowanberry is feeling quite worn out with all her extra flock-protecting duties. It’s hard work, you know. She probably deserves some steak or something.
She’s just saying.