In a recent issue, newbie henkeeper Vikki Smith, from Gloucestershire, shared her thoughts on our hobby. Here she reflects on her birds’ first outing…
A newbie free ranging
Today our girls flew the nest. Quite literally. Well, I say literally as they’re birds, but we all know that hens are a little bit rubbish at flying. Slightly better than penguins admittedly, but a bit crap nonetheless.
We let them out in the big wide world, aka the garden, to free range. It was like letting your children go out on their own for the first time. We obviously had ‘the chat’ about not wandering too far, making sure to stick together and to come home at any sign of trouble. And, of course, they knew we were nearby in case they got a bit concerned and wanted to come back indoors.
We let Feathers and Matilda out first as they had proved themselves to be the most compliant (ie well behaved). The plan was just to let those two out and see how they got on, but their gleeful strutting up and down in front of the run, showing off in front of the others, and the waving of blades of grass in the other hens’ faces through the wire, was a bit much. So, mealworms in hand, we bit the bullet and let them all out.
If hens have an idea of Christmas (without talking to the turkeys, as their opinion would be completely different), this would be it! They strutted and pecked and ran and flapped and basically lost control of any dignity that they may have had. They actually didn’t have much to start with to be fair – these are birds that are happy to walk though poo and shoot
They strutted and pecked and ran and flapped and basically lost control of any dignity that they may have had.
rocket poos at random, remember.
I’m noting that hens are very afraid of missing out. When one looks as though it has found something interesting, the others all feel the need to gather round to have a look. And then discuss it between them. At length. Until someone else finds something, and then, of course, that is far more interesting.
Tony and I watched our girls as they mooched around the garden, chatting amongst themselves and giving the occasional squawk, just in case we had forgotten they were there. Or in case the neighbours were concerned that they hadn’t heard any unnecessary clucking for a while.
Then it was time to put them back. The visions of us chasing them around the garden like a Benny Hill sketch came to mind. But, bless them, a few mealworms chucked on the floor of their run and they were running back in faster than the chicken equivalent of Usain Bolt.
Being a chicken mum is stressful.
ABOVE: Vikki Smith and Tony Draisey with their birds
BELOW: Enjoying the fresh air out on the lawn
TOP: Some of Vikki’s girls free ranging ABOVE RIGHT: It’s nice out here...