Thursday, February 20, 2014

Keeping our Chickens Happy

In between downpours, we've been getting a couple of dry, sunny days lately.  They've provided us with nice opportunities to open up our windows to get some fresh air in the house, and attend to some outdoor chores that have looked miserable in the rain.  Best of all, it's given us a chance to let our chicken flock out for some supervised free-range time.

A few months ago we had a couple of consecutive bald eagle attacks, the second one leaving us down one hen.  That triggered chicken lock-down, meaning Günther and his girls have been confined to their protected run.  We so over built their run, with fencing running 1' beneath the ground around the entire perimeter, 8' high fencing all around, the coop being 2' 6'' off the ground and most importantly a web of bungee cords spanning over the run, that we have no worries of anything getting them inside Chicken Fort Knox (CFK.... the opposite of KFC).  

Since they haven't had an opportunity to scrounge around for food, I've taken to bringing a five gallon bucket to the kitchen I work in.  Everyone in there knows what does and doesn't go in "the chicken bucket" (yes to veggie trimmings, no to onions, garlic and meat), and every other day I have a nice big feast to dump in the run.  The most popular scraps tend to be tomato, strawberry and bread bits.  Everyone in the kitchen has grown fond of the chicken bucket, and tell me they feel bad throwing away food when it's not there.  If you have a friendly little restaurant near you, it can't hurt to ask them if you could bring in a chicken bucket.  A busser from the restuarant gave me the idea by bringing in his own pig bucket, which has a lot less restrictions!  It's certainly saved us a bit on feed, broadened our cooped-up flock's diet and kept some food out of dumpster.  Win, win, win.

Today, and once last week, with the sunshining, we opened up the run and let the chickens wander freely.  They mostly stick together, weeding our trees and herb bed, running and flapping their wings.  Günther is a little more paranoid these days, keeping an eye on the sky and freaking out at the sight of a crow or far away goose.  We've learned a lot of his vocabulary and can distinguish between his food calls, warning grunts or idle chatter.  Günther makes a warning grunt and I search the sky.  If I see an eagle, I round everyone into the coop and play time is over.  When the chickens see me coming at them, flapping my arms, they all run for the coop.  It's a pretty easy routine.  We're not comfortable enough to leave them unattended, I still see our pair of eagle neighbors regularly, but it's a nice opportunity for us to lounge outside for a few hours.  Hopefully in the summer time our eagle sightings will have decreased enough for the flock to spend their days idlely picking around the house.  In the meantime, I've been enjoying our excursions.

1 comment:

  1. You missed march's update! I bet you guys were pretty busy planting and whatnot. Hope to see some more soon.

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