We’ve got hens with major attitude this year.
The small chicken pen (AKA goose pen or pig pen) by our house has a lot of trees around it so the soil tends to stay loose and loamy. The trees also create a lot of shade, which prevents thick vegetation from growing along the fence line. After the hens decimated the plant growth in their pen this year, they started looking outside the fence for their kicks and giggles. At first we had one curious hen who figured out how to escape.
Then we had two hens escaping daily and then three and soon half the flock was following suit. What was at first kind of cute turned into scratching in the flowers, pooping all over the walk path, and chickens flattening the compost pile. That was the final straw for Lee (though it was kind of funny watching him madly running after chickens yelling at them to stop messing with his compost).
He started packing branches and small pieces of wood into the escape hatches along the fence. The hens would still escape and you would see them scratching furiously in teams on both sides of the wood blocking their freedom. We couldn’t figure out how they were getting out until we saw a hen literately squeeze under a two inch gap. She had tasted freedom and nobody was going to put a pen curfew on her! The wood blocking around the bottom of the fence briefly cut down the escapees, but soon the lighter hens were launching themselves over the fence.
While this was going on all the hens were reaching the egg laying stage. Nobody wanted to use the egg box set up in the pen. Instead, all the fat heavy hens who couldn’t squeeze though two inch gaps or fly over fences started laying under blackberry brambles and by tree bases. The wily agile hens started laying outside the pen in the ferns, in grass nests, in cubby holes in the barn, and who knows where else. Every time I would find a nest they would stop using it. Once, after several days went by and my searches barely turned up any eggs, I finally came upon the mother load.
We moved the hens about a month ago into the garden pen chicken coop. That pen always has green grass in it and there isn’t any loamy soil to excavate along the fence line. Before we moved them, we clipped the flight feathers on each hen. We were worried they were going to live up to their Houdini ways, but not one hen managed to ditch the pen. Everyone integrated without a hitch.
Since escape is more difficult, they are finding new ways to rebel. Now we have a hen that refuses to roost. Every night she puts herself to bed in an egg laying box and every night I have to drag her out and put her on the roost. I think she secretly likes bucking the trend and doing her own thing.