we want to free range our chooks .... and haven't felt comfortable letting them loose for fear of them getting taken by a wild dog. and then there is our dog, Bella ... who, while she is part cattle dog ... her herding instincts lend themselves more to run, attack and destroy.
so these things have not been working in our favour for being willing to let our chooks be the animals that they should be -- in other words as one of our hero's, joel salatin would say, the chickenness of the chicken (for his very informative and yet highly entertaining Ted Talk ... go here). it is a holistic approach to ensuring that not only your chickens, but your pigs, cows, etc. .... whatever you are keeping ... are living the lives that will give them happily and healthy lives, which in turn means that they will give you more in way of production. a pretty good win / win situation in my book.
i think when the fall finally hit here in the Northern Rivers of NSW, and the sun went down on the horizon and we went from 8-10 eggs a day to zilch ... we kinda got frustrated. our chooks had been in pens ... but not truly "free range" in their ability to fend for themselves.
and so began the great experiment. we have a milk cow, we have a calf. we have lots of their generous excrement that gets left out in the paddock.... just need to risk some of our chooks being released down there so that they can scratch through the cow pats and 1) feed themselves and 2) scratch out the dung so as to give a loverly fertile layer to the soil and help it to regenerate.
so a friend of ours was about to dispatch some of their old chooks so i raised my hand and said i'd take them off them. no inputs from us .... their job was to feed themselves on what they could forage.
it worked. they were going straight for the pats ... the fly numbers reduced significantly and i could see the ground soaking up all that divine manure and almost becoming more fertile before my eyes!
so if we could do if with those girls ... why not the rest?
sure ... okay. lets give the layer hens a go ... let them out and see how it all fairs.
it fairs well! they are loving their lives and living well. and even more ... our feed bills are reducing significantly ... and they are scratching away and pooping in the area that will soon become the nubile food forest! and guess what? we are getting a few more eggs! not heaps, but a few! thank you birdies!
the last bridge to cross is that of our breeding group ... the plymouth rocks. they have always known ONLY the geodesic dome. dare i let them out in the event they get taken or run off permanently? well ... hubby beat me to the punch and while i was down milking the cow this morning he was releasing "bob and the girls" ...
lets just say that freedom is becoming them ... all of them as they get used to being truly free to enjoy their lives the way that God made them ...
and what about the wild dogs and our dog? well .... no wild dogs yet .... but we have to be prepared. the chooks do get locked up each night so they are safe during the nocturnal times. as far as our dog, Bella .... well, she went after the milking paddock chooks once ... and hubby was very vocal, very loud and very much in command and let her know under no circumstances that this was ok. she still loves the chooks, but i am confident that she would rather make us happy. so her life consists of the occassional herding of the chooks and mostly just watching them. good dog Bella!
|thank you for letting me be free!|
|cleaning out under the canopy in our future food forest.|
|gotta love a good dirt bath!|
|bob being "king of the castle"|
|what? more bugs! woohoo!|
|freedom for the plymouth rocks ... still getting used to the idea|
but they'll get there for sure!