Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE FREE-RANGING YOUR BIRDS.

If you were to ever come to my house, you would be greeted by my noisy and nosy herd of birds. That was, until this last week. Ok ok save the ducks, but they really are much better behaved than the chickens..

You see I used to love letting my birds free-range. Its better for them in so many ways, that just made it feel like a no brainer. Only, its totally NOT a no brainer. There is more trial, error, hair-pulling out work, that goes into free-range than I ever thought there would be than if the birds are simply penned up. YES, if they are penned it may cost more in the long run with feed and such but it is so worth it versus the mental anguish I've experienced otherwise. So heres a few points that made us choose to pen up the gangster birds.




See Mr. Huey and his girl friend here..? Making a dust bath in our "yard"... Grrr



1. They poo er'where

I swear, its all over. And if you've ever had chickens before you know that a roosting chicken, is a pooping chicken, oddly enough they poo while they sleep. So hopefully you're lucky enough to not have yours drop all over your outdoor dining set. Or your car. Deck. Rabbits.. oh ya its happened...Driveway. Don't even get me started on everytime the garage door being accidentally left open... You name it, and they pood on it. Remember that time I told ya'll about the birds getting into the house creating a literal sh** storm? Yeesh, that was a rough one.

2. They are ALWAYS hungry

No matter if they just ate or not, if my flower beds or garden gate was left open... All bets are off. I spent more time and money trying to block them out of places, when I could have just blocked them in.  Looking back to the times I would stand looking out the window on summer morning, coffee in hand and so peaceful, only to discover what terror rained down on my poor veggies. I won't lie, these birds now how to make me cry. Ive built structures,fences, hung netting but those little buggers are crafty suns a guns! Oh ya they also love cat food... 

3. So.. where are the eggs?

Once given free reign of the yard it is impossible to find cozy places they lay eggs. Yes the coop training helped, in the beginning... As they spent more and more time outdoors, the more comfortable they were to wander and find a nice little cranny to lay all your glorious eggs. I began seeing less and less eggs in the coop, but would randomly pass them as I did my chores. In the hay barn. On top of one rabbit hutch (hence the first point in the case of the rabbit who was pood on) Under neath the hanging rabbit cages. In the flower beds. Under the deck. In the garage.mWe even found one in one of the kids' play push cars.

4. They are the neighbors you hate.

After I had let my birds to free range for a few weeks, I had thought they'd settle into a good routine. Coming out in the morning, then roosting themselves back up at night in the coop. At first I would go close to door after dark, but since they grew so good at roost training, I found that unnecessary. Until, my neighbors trudged over and expressed their opinion of my menacing and rude birds. Unaware they had started to venture out at the crack of dawn with early summer sunlight, while everyone was still sleeping mind you, and scratch the neighbors lawns and beds to high heaven. I apologized and promised it would continue no more. In some spots they even scratched down to the roots on some ponderosa and aspen trees. Naughty hoodlum birds. Nice job Q, tick off the neighbors. After a few dozen eggs restitution, penned up birds, and a little work with a rake things are right as rain. 

5. The owls/hawks love them. Oh and dogs.

Last year I lost half a dozen free-range birds to owls in the night and hawks during the day. Owls being nocturnal see well in the night, chickens however, can barely see at all at night. If not properly coop trained, a young chicken will just go to sleep on the ground, leaving it vulnerable, so running to shelter may not be an option. Aside from that, having friends with dogs can, at times prove difficult if the owner isn't consistent or the dog likes to chase/kill small prey. We lost 3 birds to friends' dogs in the last year. This is extremely unfortunate since we have to then tell a friend their dog is no longer welcome if the birds are out. We love dogs but we also cannot tolerate nor welcome a dog who kills our farm animals. We cannot always trust our property either as a neighbor dog could come over just as easily as a coyote. Thus, we penned them up.


There you have it. Choosing to keep the birds inside was a decision that took me months to decide. Watching my birds peck and scratch around in the yard used to bring me so much happiness.. But you know what also makes me happy? Going bare foot on occasion. Guess what doesn't make me happy? Stepping my bare foot in poo. Yuck. 

There are so many great ways to use these annoying traits to your advantage though. So stop sharpening your butcher knife like I did and use these clever birds to your advantage. Their droppings are invaluable as fertilizer if composted, they do wonders if put to work tilling the garden, and can even assist you in turning your compost pile. Some where recently I read about the tilling power of 1 chicken, it is positively amazing the different ways you can use the birds. Just imagine what could be done with our whole flock.


We're enjoying fresh eggs every day and we're not stepping in poop anymore. I feel a sense of cleanliness, even in our outside environment, finally. Having poop all over really starts to wear on you. Yes, I choose to have many animals, so, poop is a given responsibility. Only now all we have to do is clean the coop. Save the ducks... blueprints for their winter shelter are stilling being drawn. Luckily they spend all their time away from the house, out in the fields, under the irrigation. And that is a post for another day ;)

Q