I have finally evicted Archie and her brood of 8 from the walled garden. These chicks grew remarkably fast and the grass paths between the raised beds were being annihilated by the constant scratting. I had planned to let these chicks free range on the 1st of November but now, at approximately 5 weeks old, they are either the same size or bigger than the free range Bantams. Time for freedom (for me and for them.)
I locked them in the bungalow (the granny flat annex built by Hubby which attached to the main coop) last Sunday morning. The 8yo and I had a bit of fun as Hope, (the tiniest girl,) managed to escape, luckily some corn soon tempted her back to her prison. Sunday passed, then Sunday night and I kept the brood topped up with water and food. Normally I'd leave a new gang of hens locked up for three days to imprint on them their new home, but I figured Archie was an old hand at the routine so I trusted her to teach her brood about roaming and coming home to bed at night.
On Monday afternoon I let them out to roam.
It's one of my greatest pleasures to give chickens their freedom. We've done it several times with ex-battery hens and it's lovely to see them blossom with good food and space to move. The chooks are fairly safe here at The Larches, there are no big roads and us humans feed them and ensure the coop is locked and electrified at night against predators. Touch wood, we've only lost one hen to a badger and that was before we put the electric fence up.
I gave the hens a treat on Monday - a little pot of cream cheese. One of Archie's babies loved it [check out the video. He's the one on the right with the tawny feathers. If you can't see the video in the email version of this post, click on the blue post title to be transported to the web version.]
However, we now have 28 chickens and with approximately half of them in lay I have plenty of eggs for baking and sharing. Trouble is I have too many roosters; 4 bantams, Road Runner (our dominant rooster) and of Archies's chicks, I think 5 are boys!.... Too many.
It's not just that I object to feeding these lads when they donate no eggs and, thanks to a plea from the 8yo, we now have no plans to make Coq au Vin for Christmas..... I object to the fact that they are so flippin' noisy AND the Bantam boys constantly encourage the girls into my walled garden.... naughty.
But I must admit they are beautiful, with gorgeous feathers and plumed tails and hilarious personalities. The cock fights are interesting too.
But it's time to be realistic, soon I'm going to take them to the Poultry Market some 25 miles away, hopefully to trade them in for something else......
........ North American Turkeys anyone?......