~ Here in the south, we are plagued with fire ants, known for their painful bites. About the chickens 2nd of 3rd day free ranging, DH reported that one of the Ameraucana cockerels had discovered a rather large ant hill. Mr. Roo stood on top of it, greedily devouring ants left and right. DH said after a moment, the roo paused, looked at his feet, picked up one, then the other, and then began to dance around a bit stamping his feet. Finally he squawked and ran off! Lesson learned? Never stand on top of a fire ant hill while you're having them for dinner.
~ One evening I was going to lock up the chickens, and as I approached the coop, I heard some very concerned clucking. Not an alarm, but definitely different from the other clucks and calls I'd been hearing. When I got there, most of the chickens were quietly on their roosts, except for one Welsummer cockerel, who wouldn't settle down. Puzzled, I spoke to him to calm him, but he wouldn't stop clucking. I followed his gaze and there on top of the feed cans was one of the Ameraucana pullets. She was on the outside trying to figure out how to get in! I wasn't sure how she got there, but she let me pick her up and pop her into the coop.
~ That particular pullet, pictured above, has managed to get out the most. Not that I actually expected the goat fencing to be chicken proof. The few times a chicken has gotten out though, they've spent their "freedom" worrying about how to get back to where the other chickens are. Anyway, the next time I found her out, it was late and the other chickens were putting themselves to roost. When I approached, she flew up to the top of the 48" fence cross member and clucked at me. So that's how she does it I thought. I didn't bother to try to catch her that time. I simply went over to the coop door and held it open for her. "Time to go to bed" I said. She flew down and walked right in. Good chicken.
~ I also had the Delaware pullet get out one evening. She wasn't quite so clever about it as the Ameraucana, and was running back and forth outside the chicken yard, frantically trying to figure out how to get back in. All the others had retired to the coop, except the Barred Holland cockerel. He was just as concerned about her situation as she was. She wouldn't let me catch her though, nor be herded toward the yard gate. Eventually I got her in, but when I followed, she ran through the yard and out the chicken gate on the other side. The Barred Holland followed. Now what. I called, "here chickens, here chick, chick, chick" until conditioning took over. She ran back into the yard and up the coop ramp, followed by the Barred Holland. The adventure was over and the chickens were in for the night.
~ One thing that's been interesting to me has to been to observe the personalities of the young roosters. I have way too many so we have started to cull them. We only need one. Even though we have a breed preference, I still need to make sure that he's the man for the job. A couple of the Ameraucanas have been are real bullies, always picking on everybody else , chasing the others away from the food, and rushing in to gobble down any and all goodies for themselves. Two of the Welsummer roos would rather hang out in the coop while the others go out to forage. These are also the first to run and hide if there's some frightening noise. I know they are roos because Welsummers have sex distinct coloring. At this point I'm pretty sure I have 12 cockerels out of 19 chickens. That's 11 that will need to go.
On to the goats.
~ The goats made their "great escape," their second day here. No, it wasn't out, out, it was through the chicken gate (click for pic) and into the chicken yard. You'd wonder why they'd be interested in leaving a lush green-growing, browsy field for a rather bare and brown chicken yard, but that's a goat for you. The first time I lured them out with feed and pondered how to deter them. I finally rigged up a low, narrow, chicken size tunnel from welded wire fencing, placed it on the chicken yard side, and hoped for the best. About an hour later I found both goats back in the chicken yard, having negotiated the tunnel without disturbing it. I got them out with feed again, thinking that all I was accomplishing was teaching them how to get a food reward for unwanted behavior! That wouldn't do!
~ Next goat deterrent was to drive three poles in front of the chicken gate on the goat side. I left enough room for the chickens to pass through, but hopefully not the goats. That worked for about half a day, when I discovered that I had two expectant goats in the chicken yard. This time I got out the hose and turned it on to a moderate blast. Goats hate to get wet and you never saw such a scramble to get out that chicken gate. My next deterrent was a board, nailed at a 45 degree angle to cover the chicken gate opening like a lean-to.
~ Goat deterrent #3 seemed to be working well. The next several times I went out to check, there were no goats in the chicken yard. At one check I didn't see them in the field, so I assumed they had gone back to their shed. They weren't there either. Chickens were fussing though, so decided to check on them. Inside the coop were the two goats, calmly helping themselves to the chicken feed, much to the distress of several chickens. To get there, they had to climb up the outside ramp, make a 90 degree turn into the coop, and down another ramp inside. I got the hose out again, which vacated the coop in a flurry of feathers, squawking, scrambling, and bleating. I added another board to widen the chicken gate lean-to entrance, and hoped for the best.
~ After that Bathsheba, the doeling, got into the chicken yard a couple more times. Her mother wasn't able to follow and put up quite a fuss. Each time, I turned on the hose, and after a couple of days she stopped trying. There have been no goats in the chicken yard since. I suppose though, that if they had to make a great escape, the chicken yard was certainly better than a neighbor's garden. Or my garden for that matter. Small blessings!
~ One thing I noticed in all this is that there seems to be a double standard in the barnyard. The chickens think nothing of running in to the goat shed and helping themselves to whatever's available, but oh what a fuss when the goats invaded their space!
~ Finally, to read about my Mother's Day surprise from Rascal, click here.
Barnyard Antics text & photos copyright May 2010