I'm approaching the 2 year mark of my initial chicken keeping venture. My original birds had petered down to 8 birds and I found someone looking to sell off 8 pullets between 4 and 5 months old. Thinking that with an evenly divided population between the first birds and the newer birds, harmony might be restored in short order, I went forth with trying to blend the flock. The rooster immediately tried to kill all the new pullets, so I butchered poor ChickenStu. It took about a week for the remaining birds to mostly sort things out, but one morning I found HennyPenny had been attacked and was on the verge of death with severe injuries to her face and neck. I was able to force her to eat and drink, and after a month in seclusion at the house, it was time to try to reintroduce her to the flock. She was in a smaller cage within the coop run for several days, then I let her out. She is terrified, running and squawking away from the others and often gets pecked at.
I've got 4 bird dogs here at the ranch, and I've been telling them for the past 2 years that they may NOT touch my chickens. I took HennyPenny out yesterday for an hour or so, letting her range around the coop and when I couldn't be in the immediate vicinity, on top of the hay stack in the barn. She was so visibly relieved and relaxed. The dogs were actually minding... watching her from inches away, sometimes, but not touching. Today, she was allowed to free range from 11 to nearly 7pm when I returned her to the coop. She was waiting for me in the barn, on top of the hay stack again.
If she becomes a full fledged free range chicken, will she learn to fly over my chain link fence and trash my vegetable garden? I would much prefer that she try going into the corral to scratch for maggots, but I know that once she's out and about, if I'm not around to watch, I won't be able to control what's happening. Ideas? Suggestions?