Our chookies have been getting bored. The first sign to watch out for is that they pick on the hen that is at the bottom of the pecking order for no apparent reason.
They get so nasty that this bullying is persistent to the point that they usually cause the victim to bleed, usually by pecking the comb.
I saw this starting to manifest itself on Thursday when I performed the daily feed. It got worse on Friday, and Saturday afternoon I isolated the victim (Edwina 2). So during Sunday we let the big chooks free range around the garden.
Not only do they perform all the weeding for us, but it stops them from being bored. They cleaned up all the grubs and bugs, and demolished any weed game enough to poke its head through the stones.
They also provide valuable fertilizer services around the fruit trees and shrubs.
It must be so much fun being one of our chickens. Well fed and not a worry in the world. Now before you decide to let your girls out for some fun, please take this advice onboard. Protect anything that you do not want destroyed. They get into everything including any patch of bare dirt which they turn into a dust bath.
Which is weird, because they have an undercover dust bath in their run. Obviously it is not good enough anymore!
On the egg front, we have been getting at least six per day from ten chooks. Not bad seeing that some of them are well past their laying prime.
Now just because the large hens had free range did it mean that everyone was happy. After about five minutes of letting the big girls out, the bantams started kicking up such a fuss. These little girls are more vocal than the ISA Browns, and would if you didn’t know better you would think that they were three times the size!
To keep the peace, we decided that to let them free range around the pool area, and Kim babysat these two incase they decided to go for a swim. Thankfully they did not, but Kim needed the rest anyway, and I did my tax return (I get all the fun jobs).
Now that the bantams were happy and quiet, I got back to my tax return. Kim snuck around to the chookhouse garden and took these extra chick bum pictures. Hard workers, my girls. Head down, bum up!
See, I told you. Here is a bare patch of dirt. Bunty the old battleaxe, having a bath in nice fresh dirt. It must be such a relief for the old girl.
Anyway, with the income tax completed, and after a few hours of free-ranging around the garden and causing havoc among the worm and grub population, we tried to lure them back to their run. It was quite easy. With a small container of cooked rice, Kim lead the way, calling ‘Chook, Chook’, throwing handfuls of rice into their run.
You should have seen them. It was just like the Melbourne Cup. It was like they had been just released from the starters gates. It was a sight to see. I rounded up the odd straggler, and closed the gate.
I then scooped up the bantams with one hand and carried them gently to their little run. And guess what? They were all quite and no-one was picking on anyone. They even went to roost quietly!
So tomorrow will be the test. The test to see if they are not as bored and be nice to one another. Hopefully, their run around the garden did the trick.
Do you sometimes have chooky troubles when they get bored? What to you do to make them happy?
We have a Plymouth Rock rooster, and a mix of Plymouth Rock, Australorp and RIR girls, plus one little old silky bantam who is currently mothering six mix breed pullets. I think the rooster keeps everything in line, because we don’t seem to get bullying in our ranks. Also as we are on half an acre they free range everyday, and are friendly with the goats too, so there’s plenty to keep them busy. I love watching them, with their big feathery bloomers, clucking around the garden.
My problem is now that the 13 spring chicks are grown large, it’s gotten crowded in the coop. The pen is very large which helps but I need to cull the extra roosters. 🙁
A whole or half cabbage (hopefully from the discount bin at the supermarket) strung up in the coop so the girls can peck at it can keep them busy. We use an untwisted wire coat hanger to poke through the middle of it then hang it at or just above chook head height so they have to work a little rather than devour quickly.
We had much the same problem this week. I let them out under the mulberry tree and they just clucked and scratched for hours. Though I do need to now go and tend to a few battered seedlings in the vege patch that got visited also.
We are extremely lucky being on an acreage. The entire orchard is fenced against foxes and other predators. The chooks have about two to three acres in which to forage all day before getting their evening meal and being locked up. There is enough room for the various groups to roam in their separate areas. The space and freedom prevents any bad behaviour.
Lynda D says
lucky lucky you (and your critters)
We have had the same problem lately. We have 6 full size hens (various breeds)and one smaller breed, a sebright. She was being picked on unmercifully so we let the rest out to free-range each evening and give her some peace (plus a few treats). We put a large tree branch in the coup so she can fly up to the top to escape. This seems to have cut down the pecking a lot but it hasn’t stopped it.
Lynda D says
Yes we have got a bullying problem but only with one bantam in particular. She is mean mean mean. We were on the brink of moving her onto a friends place when her best friend died from old age. She’s been quiet ever since. Yes, i was letting my girls out into the back yard to free range and then noticed the beds that are 45cm high were getting really damaged. Being clipped they didnt get into the 90cm high ones. Ive termporarily just block them off with whatever i could find but soon, when my boss returned from holidays, they are making removeable fences for the beds so that they are protected but i can remove them to work on garden. Since we are designing them i am hoping to make the corner poles high so i can use them to anchor shade cloth on the really hot days in summer. Handy having a metal shop at my disposal and engineers to match. Gav, your girls look lovely and i love your edging. I order the hopper feeder and drinker today based on your assessment. The waste from feral birds is driving me nuts, let alone the poop they leave behind.
Sadly ours all pick on one of the ducklings when they get bored or the roosters all decide to mate with a hen… At the same time. As much as I’m sure the roosters think the gang bang is good fun the poor hens are looking a little bald behind their combs. 3 roosters to be culled and hopefully problem solved.
We’ve just installed a little free-range gate which we open in the morning and they can all roam the back garden to their hearts content. So far my erlicheer bulbs have taken a battering but not much else thankfully. If it’s important it is fenced in. 🙂
We bought a $20 portable compost unit – 4 1m2 wire fence panels which clip together to make a cubic metre box- and use it as a chook tractor along with a cheapo pet fence kit, pegged together in different ways to block off various parts of the yard for our 4 is a browns. They get excited as soon as they see me pick the fence panels up! I also throw handfuls of wheat into the run so they have to scratch around under the straw for it.
Tania @ Out Back says
I dont think our chooks are bored. Maybe while they are waiting to be let out in the late morning, but otherwise no. They hear me coming to open the trap door and they push and shove to get out first! We let ours range everywhere all over our 2.5acres. They do make a mess of things, but they are happy. The main complaint I have is they like to poop right by the front door!
I did a post about our cheeky chooks and chicks yesterday. They like to dust bath among my dying flowers right out my living room window! We have three more broody girls, and twenty plus chooks now, they are good breeders. We put a sign up out the front to sell our excess eggs. We also sell the occasional chook and this helps to pay for their food 🙂
A bale of straw works well. They eat the odd bits of wheat & any bugs, break it up & add poo to it. Then you can leave it on the coop floor or scoop it up for mulch or compost. A wheelbarrow full of weeds also keeps the girls occupied.
Gavin Webber says
Great tips. Thanks Kate!