Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Loose Chickens.

Posted on | May 31, 2014 | 4 Comments

There’s a lot of debate regarding free range chicken.  Technically, the government considers “free range” to mean that the birds have access to the outdoors.  But it doesn’t actually mean they spend any time out there or that it’s more than a gravel yard.  Most people (as opposed to the government) consider “free range” to mean chickens that are allowed to roam around a natural area, foraging for some of their food and choosing their favorite place for a dust bath.  Although, with the rise of egg mobiles and portable electric netting, lots of chickens are rotating through fields and woodlands in movable pens.  Which some people consider to be “pastured” chickens instead of free range.   Of course, there are also “cage free” hens.  That simply means keeping chickens in a facility without cages.  No limits on crowding and no guarantee of sunlight or open ground, just no cages.  There’s “humanely raised” chickens—-a definition that is totally up for grabs.  Or there’s Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved—-with documented standards.  Very documented.  Like so-long-I-only-managed-to-read-the-first-30-pages-before-I-lost-interest documented.

Around here the chickens are fenced out of areas instead of inside them.  They are fenced out of the landscaping in the front yard.

No swimming in the pond, ladies.

Fenced off the deck.

No scratching in the flower pots, ladies.

Fenced out of the garden.

No pecking the vegetables, ladies.

And fenced out of the backyard.

You say "Chicken." We say "Yum!"

Besides those small areas set aside for us, the rest of the farm is open for the chickens to wander.  The livestock are contained with field fencing or cattle panels and the chickens can walk easily through those barriers.  They can even walk down to the road if they’d like, although we don’t have a lot of chickens left that like to walk in the road.  Because that’s a self-correcting problem.

Based on all those conditions, I’d say our chickens qualify as “free range.”  But the other day, Pretty and I stood watching one of the pastures and pondering all those definitions.  Because in the pasture was one of our Americana hens.  With a new brood of chicks.  13 chicks in all.  Little puff balls darting around her toes, looking just a day or two old.

We weren’t sure how old they were because we didn’t know when they hatched.  We didn’t know when they hatched because we didn’t know where she had hidden her nest.  We didn’t know where her nest was hidden because we didn’t know she was broody.  We didn’t know she was broody because we didn’t even know she was missing from the flock.

I mean, I feed and water the chickens twice a day.  I just don’t count them.  I don’t count them because I don’t really know exactly how many I have anyway.  I don’t really know exactly how many I have because every year some of the hens spend a little time with the rooster and then sneak off to some hidden spot to lay eggs, hatch their chicks, and not return until the deed is done.

Pretty and I watched her for awhile before scooping her up with her chicks and closing them in the kidding barn for safekeeping.  Safekeeping from the youngest safekeeper.

What are those? Are they chickens? 'Cause I know I can't eat chickens, right? But they don't look like chickens. Are you sure they're chickens? Why are they peeping? What does peeping taste like? Oh, they're running! Running and peeping!!! Oh, oh, oh, are you really sure they're not for eating??!!!!

As we headed back inside the house, I decided I knew exactly what kind of chickens we had.  Loose chickens.  Very, very loose chickens.

Yeah. That means you, sweetie.


4 Responses to “Loose Chickens.”

  1. Jill
    June 1st, 2014 @ 5:37 am

    lol. And they lay loose eggs like you used to see in the old timey mom and pop grocerys…!

  2. Linda A.
    June 1st, 2014 @ 8:08 am

    so you mention feeding twice a day. Do you toss feed out for them, or have your feed in chicken feeders? I am wondering because I’ve always had my feed available for my “girls” who have 2 acres to roam… it has caused a problem with rodents who believe it is theirs also. I’m thinking tossing free feed out might be better, although not sure how much they would need.

  3. admin
    June 1st, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

    I just toss out some feed for them. I do have a trough that I put it in on rainy days to keep the grain out of the mud. It’s only enough feed for the flock to finish in about 3-4 minutes. So there’s nothing left for rodents. I figure they are getting plenty of real food from foraging the property (especially in the summer) so I don’t worry about exactly how much they need.

  4. annabelle
    June 3rd, 2014 @ 7:26 am

    you crack me up!! thanks!
    loose chickens!

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