Lisa Munniksma

freelance writing, editing, farming, travel

If you can’t beat ’em

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Hens like this one think they own the place.

Some hens (like this one and at least 29 others) think they own the place.

I’m writing this blog post while sitting outside my castle (trailer), and I’m surrounded by chickens dust bathing, foraging for insects and making those chicken-y noises that they do. I kind of like having some chickens free-ranging in my yard alongside the cow barn, but what we have here is a group of rogues–rebel hens, you might say.

Like the rest of the 300-bird laying flock, these hens are supposed to create their homebase around the renovated school bus. That’s where they’re fed, that’s where their guardian dogs hang out to protect them, and that’s where they have cushy nest boxes and ample roosting space. These ladies refuse to be told what to do, however. (Maybe that’s why I like having them here, as kindred spirits.)

It’s not the end of the world to have chickens in the cow barn. (What barn is complete without chickens, after all?) Except that they make a bit of a mess down here. And we don’t feed them here, so they’re not laying to their fullest abilities. And they don’t lay their eggs anywhere that makes sense to people, only to chickens—in between large round bales of hay that require jumping and climbing to reach, along a ledge of hay from which the eggs drop and smash on the ground, and directly in the composting pig manure.

The bus is where the hens belong, offering such amenities as free-choice feed, automatic waterers, shelter, straw-lined nest boxes, abundant roosting space, room for all their friends and two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs.

The bus is where the hens belong, offering such amenities as free-choice feed, automatic waterers, shelter, straw-lined nest boxes, abundant roosting space, room for all their friends and two Great Pyranees guardian dogs.

Last week, farmer Adam and I orchestrated a chicken-napping, determined to return these hens to their proper home. After sundown (when the chickens are no longer active), we snatched 25 hens from their roosts in and around the cow barn and brought them to the bus. We’d hoped it would remind them of all the amenities the bus has to offer and convince them that the bus is where they belong. The next day, I counted 12 hens in the cow barn; the day after that, 16. Yesterday, there were 30.

This morning, we discussed moving them to the bus again one night this week and fencing them away from the barn with electrified net fencing. This effort is going to take more net fencing than we have, and then there’s the problem of needing to allow the cows to be able to reach the barn. Short of tearing down this barn, I’m not really sure how to keep them out. Instead, we decided cooperation could be the way to go.

These buckets-turned-nest-boxes are ugly, for sure, but it took about 16 minutes to make all of them, and they just might solve our rogue-chicken woes.

These buckets-turned-nest-boxes are ugly, for sure, but it took about 16 minutes to make all of them, and they just might solve our rogue-chicken woes.

We cut a few old buckets into nest boxes and installed them in the main area of the barn. If the hens will at least start laying eggs in clean, easy-to-reach places, having them here won’t be so bad. If they don’t figure this out, I see a chicken clearance sale in the near future.

Wish us (and the hens) luck!

3 Comments

  1. The suspense is overwhelming. Keep us informed.

  2. Can I live in that bus with the chickens?

  3. Lol — hens can sure be determined. We have one hen that insists on laying eggs on the swing on our front porch. She’ll make do with the coop if she has no choice, but the minute she can get back to the front porch, that’s her spot. She will not be deterred. Good luck — I hope they use those nifty nesting boxes 🙂

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