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.
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 After sundown (when the chickens are no longer active), we snatched 25 hens from their roosts in and around the cow barn and brought them to the bus.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.
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!