We don’t follow the tips in Free
Range Chicken Gardens,
choosing instead to keep our flock out of trouble the easy way — by
fencing them away from the vegetables. A few weeks ago, though,
they got out.
Mark and I spent a long
weekend in California to celebrate my brother’s wedding, and we thought
we were all set to leave the chickens alone. A five gallon
bucket waterer lasts
nine chickens a very long time, and filling an automatic
feeder took care of
their hunger pangs.
It was tougher to deal
with the raccoon
issue, but a few
weeks of careful planning took care of even that problem. We
moved the hens to the other coop, which confused the raccoon, and I
went out every night to chase the chickens off the fences and into the
coop until they remembered how to perch like good little birds.
What I didn’t count on
was our usually good dog getting bored in our absence and gnawing a
hole through the chicken wire. She didn’t hurt the chickens, but
did leave them an escape hatch which they happily took advantage of.
Luckily, the fall
vegetable seedlings were far enough away from the coop that the
chickens didn’t reach them, but our hens did peck up a lot of tomatoes
and scratch mulch everywhere. I was a bit astonished by how much
mayhem a medium-sized flock of chickens can create in just two and a
I can’t complain,
though, because everything was quite fixable. And the dozen-plus
eggs laid in our absence had yolks so orange we ate them up in no
time. I’ll just have to remember — no food scraps for the flock
the day before a trip.