When I embarked upon this chicken-keeping venture last year I fully intended to let them free-range in my yard. It’s so much better for them to forage for food and have the freedom to run around and pursue their chicken community interactions, instead of being (literally) cooped up.
Unfortunately, they are terribly destructive to my garden, scratching around and uprooting my treasured (and in some cases, expensive) plants. They have absolutely no regard for all my hard work in the garden, happily rooting around wherever they please. My carefully prepared seedbeds are perfect for an invigorating dust bath; all that lovely soft, loose soil!
Sadly, this bad behaviour has resulted in my keeping them locked up in their coop, although I feel guilty about it. No matter how many buckets of insect-laden weeds I dump in there for poultry entertainment, I know it’s a poor substitute for the freedom to forage.
One day, while I was pondering this problem, genius struck! Okay, maybe not quite genius, but a darn good idea – behind my yard is a greenspace, with no garden, where chickens could free-range to their hearts’ content. If I had a door in my fence I could let them out and not sustain damage to my garden. Hmmmmm, this sounds like a project for my handy man.
No, I don’t have a handyman, but my husband is pretty handy AND very supportive. Plus he really enjoys fresh eggs, and happy hens lay more eggs. So with a minimum of grumbling he built me a lovely, sturdy, predator-proof chicken door to freedom.
My hens are so happy, now that they get outside regularly to forage and run around, and I’m so happy, because my garden isn’t getting trashed by my chickens. I think my husband is happy too – it was a relatively simple construction project, unlike some of the things I’ve dreamed up (like building a henhouse from a bunk bed).
Some of the new chickens have ventured outside too; the Buff Orpington trio, who are fast approaching the size of my adult hens, have discovered the joys of free-ranging. So far, the little Silver Laced Wyandottes haven’t made it outside yet, but I’m sure they will.