They’ve dug their way out, they’ve ram raided their way out and now they are ganging up on me in a surge for freedom…my chickens don’t like being caged.
However as a voluntary registered poultry keeper I have done my bit and my chickens are interned for the duration.
The bio-secure cage took two days to build and during that time I fed and watered the flock indoors – this was quite a tricky job as the hen hut is not exactly commodious and nor does it have a solid floor.
After tripping up and spilling the water all over me and then slipping on it rather painfully across the slatted floor into a heap of outraged feathers I decided it would be appropriate to wear Wellingtons and overalls rather than nightwear and slippers for such a job.
The cage is such that no wild birds can enter and nor can the rats. It is supposed to prevent the chickens from escaping as well – we’ve had to make a few modifications…
There is an outer fence about five and a half feet high and spanning that a roof leading to a mid point about six and a half feet high which in turn leads up to the apex of the hen hut at about eight foot. The fence is chicken wire covered with a plastic fruit cage covering being light enough to create a roof without me having to do major works, which I would have neither the money nor time to complete. A new gate is heavy enough to swing shut when I enter and if I say so myself looks OK.
It was such a relief for all when I could at last let them out. They shot through the door, slithered down the ramp and came to a rather stunned stop. I had tried to disguise the fact that they could not wander around as much as before (30 ft square versus 4 acres) by bringing in a load of windfall apples and putting up roosts and a huge pile of chippings to play in but freedom is after all freedom and however many things you are given to play with just doesn’t match up.
It has been pathetic to see them all hunched and miserable, the cockerels’ tails drooping but it seems they do not give up hope. Within two hours the chicks and several of the bantams had escaped by scratching a hole underneath the gate and it wasn’t until I saw Ollie, (my rather large white cockerel) struggling to squeeze himself rather unsuccessfully underneath that I realised we had had a break out.
It seemed pointless running round the farm trying to catch the escapees and so I let them all out in the hope of feeding them all back in later in the day. In the meantime I amused myself by digging the earth out round the door and struggling to lay a large piece of stone at its base. Mission accomplished and it was time to get them back in three hours later and in the dark I gave up.
Strangely enough the following day I was able to feed all the stragglers back in which goes to prove that either chickens have short memories or that their stomachs are bigger than their brains.
There were no escapees until the afternoon when Ollie and Stanley (Ollie’s glamorous half brother) managed to throw themselves at the gate until it popped open. I repeated the previous day’s performance but gave up much more quickly and surveyed them rather dolefully from my office window as they pranced around in the sunshine in the orchard, scratching vigorously at the earth and chasing each other round the apple trees or else walking sedately behind the proud cockerels. My heart was very heavy watching them. Their last day of freedom…AGAIN.
Now the gate is tied with baler twine and so far no escapees… I deliver scraps from the kitchen and windfall apples and they lay eggs and are resigned: I think…but you never know quite what they will do next….