Learning to range

I started letting the chickens out into the wide world when I got back, because they have to learn sometime. I’d open the main door and just leave it open and wait.  For hours they only poked their heads out, until one of the roosters got jostled and fell out, with much squawking.  Over the first few days, they slowly ventured a few feet away from the coop.

That was fraught with anxiety for me.  At first I only did it while I was around, all scared of all the threats they would encounter, with no street smarts at all! But they seem to be ok.  I’ve seen them practically interacting with the ravens, whom they are about the same size as now, the bear has rolled through, as have the neighbor’s dogs, and there have been no losses.

At first, every morning when I opened their hatch the roosters would tumble out and stand there wide legged, blinking, and shake their necks out.

Now when I let them out in the morning they pop out the hatch like corks, trying to be the first out and flow right past me without hesitation, peeping and murmuring with curious delight (it’s not anthropomorphizing- it’s obviously curiousity and delight in their chicken voices).  It’s impossible to sleep in when you know how excited they are, every day, to get out in the grass, and it’s impossible not to smile every morning as they chortle happily and bound towards the paddock, their favorite place.

It’s so nice to have them around the yard.  The books say it, other people say it- how rewarding it is to have chickens, but it’s hard to describe just how pleasing it is to see a bunch of chickens quietly being chickens in the grass. Some in breeches, some with feathered feet, most with blue lizard-skin legs.

One hen had a dead mouse this morning, looking for a moment’s peace and privacy to tackle it, and she was being doggedly tailed by one rooster.  The roosters have crowing competitions- that’s getting annoying, and the one who’s always been the smallest but isn’t anymore runs everywhere at top speed, still trying to stay in everyone’s business all at once.  They play king of the castle, perching on the horse’s manger and crowing until the horse comes and snorts at them and they all flee.

I thought that they would be a homogenous group all the time, but in fact, they are usually in three different cliques.  The roosters do everything together, like brothers, and then the other two crowds will be off in totally separate places, while one hen seems to like to have the henhouse to herself during the day.  She’s in there when the count doesn’t add up.  Bunch of weirdos.

It’s true, chickens are really amusing.

Now they are graduated to totally free range, there’s almost nothing to do for them but open and shut their door morning and night and give them water.

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