April 3, 2014

Chicken Wrangling

Are ya'll tired of baby goat pics? With 8 new kids I have plenty more, but here's a post I had prepared to go before all the kidding commenced. 

I admit it. I am not an adept chicken wrangler. Fortunately, most of my chickens are pretty cooperative; they get over the fence occasionally and have to be herded back. Calling "chick, chick, chick, chick, chickens" and a handful of scratch usually does it. The Silver Laced Wyandottes and Speckled Sussex will actually run up to the chicken gate when they see me and wait to be let in. But not my Buff Orpingtons. For some reason, whenever they see me, they take off in the opposite direction.

Buff Orpington hens. 

This may go back to when the oldest ones were chicks. They were raised by one of my Welsummers, who liked to take them for walks around the yard. When they started getting too close to the garden or the road, I would herd them back. I would take a bath towel and walk behind them flapping it crisply so that it sounded like hawks' wings. I would call out, "Shoo, shoo," as they made a terrified scramble back toward the chick yard. That must have been more traumatic than I realized. Now they run away any time they see me.

This has became a problem recently, because I have been trying to establish our little buck pasture. Some of it's doing fairly well.

Last fall I seeded with annual rye, quite a bit of which has started to grow.
Hopefully, so has seed from my sustainable pasture experiment

But some of it is pretty scratched up thanks to the chickens.

From a different angle there are large bare spots in need of seeding.

I began to work on ways to keep them out. The first thing I tried was to reroute them into the doe pasture. I closed all the gates and covered any chicken size openings. That stopped all but four persistent Buffs. I observed that most of the fence hopping occurred at the cross members of the H braces, so I used baling twine to create a barricade.

This detered them somewhat. They would make a terrible fuss when they jumped up and had to negotiate the twine, but it didn't stop them.

As I racked my brain, I thought of our former hawk deterrent efforts, and reading that shiny things like CDs help keep hawks away. The only thing I could think of was to attach a row of aluminum foil strips to the top of the fence.

Aluminum foil is well known for it's anti-alien properties and I figured that if it worked, I could make my fame and fortune by proving that chickens are aliens in disguise from another planet. At the very least I could make my debut on George Noory's radio show; maybe even get a contract to write the screenplay for MIB4.

Alas, this did not work. Those four stubborn Buffs still managed to jump the fence in the morning and work that pasture. What made matters worse was that they couldn't figure out how to get back into the chicken yard. I would try to herd them, but they insisted on running away in the opposite direction!

This went on for several frustrating days until at last I decided they had to be caught and wing clipped. You'd think this would have been my first solutions except that these didn't go into the coop to roost at night. Rather, they roosted at the top of the cedar tree in the chicken yard. Now they couldn't get back and were roosting in the bushes in the buck pasture. I figured I could catch them at night, clip their wings, and all would be well.

I figured I'd have a good chance if I waited until after dark and caught them unawares. Except they weren't unaware, they saw me coming in the moonlight. After freaking out the first two hens, I went after the other two with the flashlight. It blinded them so that I was able to pluck them out of the bush easily. The first two were also blinded by it and simply hunkered down. That made them easy to catch too.

All four had both wings clipped and were placed in the coop that night. For now, the buck pasture is safe for forage seed planting and growing. Except I will likely have to do the planting at night so no chicken is tempted to try to get into the buck pasture again. Stealth planting anyone?

Chicken Wrangling © April 2014 by Leigh 


Michelle said...

Hey, with lambs here I totally understand how captivating the youngest members of the farm are! Chickens are fine, but I for one am not tired of the baby goats!

Willow said...

Ah yes ~ stealth planting 101 !

Anonymous said...

What you said is true. See the way they are looking!

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

I know just what you mean by stealth planting! tee hee. My chickens are about to be locked up in the orchard for the summer to save my veg plants. I have been secretly planting the early stuff and covering with my butterfly (chicken!) nets.
Loving your goat pics

Leigh said...

Michelle, I'm glad because the next post will be loaded with kid pics! And congratulations on your new lambs!

Willow, I did go out around midnight a week or so ago to spread some seed. The other trick is keeping them out of the garden!

Weekend-Windup, they do have a sneaky look about them, don't they. ;)

Gill, thanks! I think I need to be covering some garden beds too. I hope your chickens stay put!

Farmer Barb said...

I would like to hear how they look trying to flap with half wings and those big bodies!

I, too, want to see the socializing kids! Recess!!!

Tyche's Minder said...

Of the 7 or 8 breeds represented in our chicken flock, the Orpingtons are easily the least flock bound and have the most wander lust. They get into everything. Silly birds. :)

I'm not sure there is such a thing as 'too many' kid pictures.

Renee Nefe said...

We're not tired of goats, but chickens are good too.

Do you think these Buffs might tell the others to not fence hop if they don't want to be attacked?

tpals said...

:)) They remind me of the penguins from the Madagascar movies.

thewovenspoke said...

Ah, chickens aren't they fun! But I want to hear about the adventures in Stealth Planting :)

Sandy Livesay said...


Have you tried using bird netting? It sure seems to work for me with the birds trying to get at my garden.

I love all your goat stories and pictures. Keep posting about them :-)

Anonymous said...

Love the theories you tested first! Clipping will be my last choice too, but already mine are flying around the run. If they ever got loose, I am not sure I could catch them.


Leigh said...

Barb, it's a hoot, actually. And I'll have more kids to show next post! :)

Tyche's Minder, we're actually going to phase out the Buffs. Dan wanted to try Silver-Laced Wyandottes and we like those pretty well.

Renee, I hope they don't tell! I do think they all learn a lot by observing one another. :)

Tpals, LOLOL!!!

Thewovenspoke, I did it around midnight when the chickens were all put up for the night! Moonlight is a good thing for stealth planting. :)

Sandy, do you mean for the birds, the pasture, or the garden? I think I'd need a ton of netting to cover everything! I have thought about snow fencing for the garden. If it's wobbly on top, the chickens likely won't try to hop it. That's my theory anyway. :)

Stephanie, I have to tell you that wing clipping doesn't always work. I've had them manage to get over a 4 foot fence with clipped wings!

Unknown said...

Ok, ill be the one the say it - yep, im a bit sick of baby goats. Not only yours but i follow a few blogs in US and you are all having a run on kid pictures. OK, i get it, they are super super cute. Thanks for chook pictures. Yes that's what they are here. Not chickens but chooks. Chicken is what we eat.


Sarah said...

Personally I don't think I'll ever get sick of the baby goat pics! My daughter loves them as well!

Leigh said...

Lynda, I asked and you answered! Homesteading, like farming, is maddeningly seasonal, isn't it? When one is overwhelmingly busy with baby goats and goat related chores, photos are so much easier to post about than trying to find time to write something! :)

I didn't realize the word "chook" had such specific connotations. Is it similar to cow and beef, or pig and pork?

Sarah, so does my granddaughter. :)

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Leigh, first of all quoted you today from your book on my FB page. Your insights are too good not to share.

We too struggled with chickens everywhere we did not want. With over 50 acres to keep planted or seeded at different times we finally went to a lockdown in their coop and small yard with overhead netting from about April 1 until all seedlings up and going around June 1. Then the chickens are set loose to free range the entire farm. Enough bugs and grub by then to get them from doing (too much) damage to new seedlings. What we loose in small amounts of produce we make up in pest control and great tasting eggs and birds. Always a balance isn't it?

Laura said...

When I had chickens (I have shifted to ducks), the Buffs and the Silver-laced Wyandottes were the worst escapees. For many years, I've had a "chicken grabber". I got it from Premier 1 Supplies - it's basically a leg crook for chickens. It works really, really well. I've even pulled a peahen out of a tree with it.

All of my birds (except the peafowl) are wing clipped, though I only do 1. I've seen birds still fly with both clipped. I clip the secondaries and the primaries on one wing, making them so unbalanced, lift-wise, that they can't really get off the ground. The peafowl are in a fully enclosed aviary, so their wings are left alone. Since they can also hop 6', it doesn't really help anyway!

Debby Riddle said...

my favorite chicken catching device is a large fish net, using found at Kmart. It has saved my dignity on more than one occasion. Catching them sleeping works well too. I decided once that white ones was a good idea. for locating them in the dark, but not as interesting as the other varieties.:)

badgerpendous said...

Wow, such a population explosion with the kids!

We have a chicken who easily jumps over the "fence" and runs around the whole back yard. Just one. The other chickens never bothered. But this one that escapes, of course, cannot for the life of her figure out how to get back in.

Which a problem, because that's where the water and nesting box are. Sheeh.

Hope the wing clipping works!

Leigh said...

Donna, I am honored! Thank you so much. Do you have a personal FB page? I only know about your South Pork one.

Good idea about confining chickens during critical plant growing times. With our new coop we'll also expand the chicken yard for times like that.

Laura, I've seen those but never knew how well they worked. Thanks for the info! Of wing clipping, I have to say I seem to have better results with doing both wings. My one-clipped-wing chickens still managed to fly crookedly up to the top of the 4 foot gates!

Debby, that's what I need but never knew where to get one! Thank you!

Garrett, chickens can be persistent! It's a good thing she doesn't jump into your neighbor's! And once they get started, it's hard to untrain them. Wing clipping has helped so far; I just have to make sure any chicken sized openings under the gate are covered!

Chris said...

When I was reading this, I wondered what sort of Orpingtons you had. In my experience they're normally placcid, even when you make a ruckus around them.

Then I read the bit about the adopted Welsummer mum however, I knew exactly where it all came from, lol.

It certainly makes life interesting. :)