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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?

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Comment by dj griffith on November 18, 2011 at 4:49am

Jeanne, I would be glad to adopt your little silky if you are willing to part with her. I have two minis she could clump with. Additionally I could give you a plump steady laying hen in trade...I have leghorns and reds to choose from. My layers are in a large pen and the minis are free range in the yard.

Comment by Jeanne Tavares on October 6, 2011 at 10:55pm

What a difference in just two weeks. HennyPenny is reintegrating well with the rest of the flock in the coop. She's still quite skittish, but doesn't seem to be a particular target of the others. I do have another little problem hen, a little silkie that we named Emu that I wrote about on the 24th. She took up residence in my garden and seems so happy and relaxed in there. I brought her back to the coop last weekend, at dusk when I set her into a nest box and she was immediately set upon by every hen in the coop. Poor little thing found a gap by the gate and squeezed herself out. I caught her and put her back into the garden the next day. She'd probably be fine free ranging. The only real threat is from my dogs. As soon as she starts to squawk, it triggers the predator/prey response and if I'm not around to call them off, I'm afraid that they will kill her. I've started sending out feelers for someone who would be willing to take an older hen who does not lay regularly. Her wing feathers are so trashed by the mean bullies that it's impossible for her to do any more than to flutter down from a roost if I place her up there. All the pullets that I brought home in July had their wing feathers clipped by their previous owner.


Comment by Traci Irving on October 6, 2011 at 8:04pm
trim her wings and she won't be able to get out of the fence...
Comment by Peggy Alexander on September 28, 2011 at 7:26am
I used this when I had a similar problem - - worked great
Comment by Jeanne Tavares on September 24, 2011 at 8:51pm
I found my first little pullet egg today. Hooray!! With the older girls still working on their molt, I wasn't seeing a lot of eggs here for the past two months. After HennyPenny's day out free ranging, she seems to be more accepted in the flock. She's still scared, but I'm seeing very little picking on her. I also have a small silkie who has always been the target of the bigger girls' attacks. Poor little thing, her back is covered in scabs. She had been in seclusion, also within the larger coop for a long time. I brought her into the garden today to let her dig and scratch around in a fresh load of compost that I brought up. I noticed that there were lots of rolypolys in there, and even some small cutworms/maggots(?). Seems like she had a very pleasant day digging and scratching around in the huge area that I had distributed new compost a week ago. My plan of the day today had been to rototill the compost in, but when I pulled out my litter, the primer bulb had an X shaped split in it. AAARGH!! It's time NOW, I know, to be planting my fall crops. The seed potatoes are nicely sprouting, up to 3" high. Hoping that I WILL have time to get a fall crop from those before hard frost. The spring tomato plants are huge and lush, sprawled all around, so should be setting new fruit. Pickling cuke plant is producing, and lots of butternut squash right now. I'm trying to be creative in using all those squash. Pie in the oven right now....
Comment by Jeanne Tavares on September 23, 2011 at 3:10pm
Ducks would be a disaster here. It wouldn't take them but a day or so to discover that my pool is not fenced and a lovely duck pond waiting to be fouled.. (fowled???haha).
Comment by Liz & Dan on September 23, 2011 at 12:10am

Nope - I haven't had any luck training a chicken to stay out of an area they can access.  They will jump, fly or climb over just about anything.  Generally speaking my chickens stay in my yard and don't wander that much, but any garden munchables in the vicinity are fair game to them.  Of course the same applies to my dogs and they will snag any veggies they can get their teeth on.  Dogs and chickens get along just fine here, and happily spend the days together in the backyard, but I think these guys are an exception not the rule.

My best recommendation if you want free ranging poultry that are easier to contain with wing clipping, try Muscovy ducks.  A little 2-3 foot fence can be enough to keep them out of an area, low enough for you to step over, but perfect to keep their beaks out.  A chicken wouldn't even recognize a fence that would keep a Muscovy duck out as a barrier, they are just too agile.

All in all, one chicken won't make that much of a dent in a good sized garden, at least not in one day.  Keep an eye on things and see how it goes.  You might try distracting her by planting some chicken yummies out away from your garden as well.  Good luck.

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