I made the decision that the Beakheads should learn to free-range. Actually, there’s not that much learning involved with walking around the yard eating bugs and delicious green things. They have that part down. The real problem is getting them OUT of the coop to said free-ranging area without causing a chicken heart attack or a human heart attack because I’m the one chasing them around.
So I had this brilliant idea a couple of nights ago. Instead of trying to catch one of them, I would lure them out the door by leaving a trail of scratch for them to follow. I went into their area in the coop (they were all out in the run) and stood around with the bucket of scratch and then “accidentally” threw some into the shavings…and it made that sound that grain makes when it hits the floor. I didn’t have to wait more than a few seconds and half a dozen chickens showed up at the door to the run.
They’re suckers for scratch.
I dropped a little more and started backing out of the gate, talking sweet chicken talk. They followed the trail of scratch and pretty soon they were standing in the work area. I had managed to only corral two out of the original half-dozen that had come in and that was just fine. I wasn’t ready to manage TOO many of them out in the yard, by myself. Before I try that, I’ll need a box of wine and a large butterfly net because you KNOW they won’t listen to me once they’re out there. Anyway, I had Ruth and Opal. I scooped up Opal, and Ruth followed me because…well, she had no idea what else to do.
I plopped Opal down in a patch of white clover and Ruth started maniacally eating clover not far away. They were very well behaved…and adorable…but what was going on in the run was sort of embarrassing because the rest of the flock was FREAKING OUT. Cluck was frantically running back and forth at the end of the run because I’d taken not ONE, but TWO of his women. He was out of his tiny mind. To make matters worse, the rest of the girls were carrying on something awful because they could SEE Opal and Ruth, but couldn’t get to them. There was a lot of hurling themselves against the fence and attempts to fly out of the run which of COURSE didn’t work because the run has a top on it. Vinnie was out of his mind because he was missing a snack.
I let the girls forage around for a little while and they eventually foraged their way back to the run and stood there making chicken noises at the flock that was still inside. I finally herded them back into the coop and put them back in the pen where they were MOBBED by the other chickens.
Apparently, they are now Free-Range Celebrities or something.
It was time to fill the feeder, so I picked it up and made my way through the door to the work area where I keep the feed storage can. In some weird mix-up of my feet, the feeder and a lot of chickens, Cluck ended up in the work area with me…outside the chicken pen…
HE. FREAKED. OUT.
He jumped up on the straw bale and hurled himself over and over at the fence. His eyes were panicked and he was clearly thinking “WRONG SIDE! WRONG SIDE! SWEET LAWD AMIGHTY I’M ON THE WRONG SIDE!!!!!!”
I filled the feeder and he flailed around and generally made a complete idiot of himself. The chickens IN the pen watched him completely melt-down with mild interest, but none of them panicked. I finally opened the door to the pen and he STREAKED inside like he was rocket-propelled. The others gathered around and clucked excitedly. Except for Vinnie…who was waiting near where the feeder usually sits, because…you know….FRESH FEED.
I put the feeder back in place and they absolutely love the new organic, non-GMO feed (<–that’s the feed link) that I got for them and pretty soon most of them were beak down in the feeder digging for sunflower seeds that are in the feed. Vinnie looked up at me to see if I had anything else delicious and his wattles were COVERED with feed dust. He didn’t care. Just stuck his head back in the feeder.
Cluck was still trying to get a hold of himself after being on the wrong side of the fence. I told him, that if he’s ever going to get anywhere with the ladies, he has to at least TRY to be brave. He ruffled his feathers and shook them, like he was trying to shake off the terror of the entire event and then jumped up on a roost to watch the others.
I don’t think Cluck will be free-ranging with the others any time soon since it causes him that much anxiety. I told him that he’s got to toughen up otherwise, Vinnie would attempt an overthrow of the GOP. I know Vinnie wouldn’t do that…unless there was a major pile of treats involved…and then he’d only want to be in charge until the treats were gone. I don’t think Cluck is worried about Vinnie staging a coup attempt. I think he’s worried he’ll have a heart attack and Vinnie will end up in charge by default.
And that won’t be good at ALL.