Although the older chooks have been “free-ranging” for about two weeks now, it’s all been in a limited area, fenced in by a portable fence. We did that partly to get them used to the concept, but also to make it easier for us to round them up. There have been a few evenings where it has been a challenge to round them up. It must have looked funny, us chasing them around the feijoa bushes. However, the last few nights have been relatively easy. So we figured it was time they got more freedom – not merely as a reward for good behaviour, but also to move them on before they demolish that whole area.
So we put a second temporary fence up, basically to partition Dreamland in two equal sized areas. At least if they go “absent without leave”, we would only have to search half the area. But we didn’t start with the chooks. At this stage the ducks were still in the renovated coop, together with the young Buff Sussex pullets and the baby Light Sussex pullets. So we first set the ducks free at the pond. My word, did they enjoy swimming and searching for food in the pond!
While the kids played with the ducks, the chickens were resting in the shade, so we quickly moved the other temporary fence too. It was only after a while that the chickens realised they had way more freedom and started exploring. It was quite hilarious – for the first couple of times, when any one of the chooks saw any of us in the open area, they would dash back frantically to their old area. It was only after a while that they realised this free-ranging arrangement was for real.
Getting the ducks home was quite easy. By late afternoon they started hanging around under the apple tree just outside their coop. The chooks weren’t too bad either. It was still the same culprits – the two Wyandottes and one Scot Grey – that gave us problems, but luckily they kept running around and around their coop, as they always do. Thanks goodness they didn’t disappear into the bushes, which they could easily have done. Me thinks it’s just a game they play for their own enjoyment!
What’s really interesting about the free-ranging setup is that when they’re not swimming (the ducks, that is), the ducks and roosters always seem to be together. Mostly the big Sussex roosters. They seem to have a weird love hate relationship or shall I call it a fearful harmonious relationship going on here. We’ll have to see how that pans out, because the ducks may just end up sharing a coop with some of the Sussex hens and at least one of those roosters.