Hens with a mind of their own

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.

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11 Responses to Hens with a mind of their own

  1. Ann says:

    I particularly love that last photo – well done!

    Your post reads a bit like “Zen and the Art of Poultry Psychology” LOL!

    Hope you’re doing well…!

    • lee says:

      Robin said she wanted a photo with all 16 chickens and when I asked how she was going to accomplish that she headed to the barn for a pint of cracked corn. Cracked corn is like the ultimate tool for staging chicken photos. I’m still surprised she got all of them in one frame.

      This post can be Zen in spirit, but we are certainly no Zen masters. It’s been two weeks since Robin wrote the first draft of this post and we are still taking the obstinate hen out of the nesting box every night.

      • ShimFarm says:

        Hi again…haven’t heard from you two in a while. Hope Robin’s OK. Happy New Year to you both! All the best in 2013!

        • robin says:

          Hi Anne. Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. We have both been well. I’m just always tired. lol. Only two more months and hopefully I can get back to my normal self! ­čÖé Happy New Year to you also!!

          • ShimFarm says:

            Hi Robin, no need to be sorry! Just nice to have a sign of life and reassurance all is well with you both! Hope you had a great new year’s eve. I think I need a new liver, plus a gall bladder…LOL. Just kidding, but we went to one helluva party. Time for a detox now! Pass the green tea and dried toast…

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve been following your blog sporadically for the past two years, and only just sat down and read it from the beginning…. Pretty cool stuff.

    Thanks for all the information and best of luck for the (rapidly approaching) new year!

  3. Lynn says:

    Your chickens are very pretty. And very rebellious!

    We have 1 that always roosts by herself in an empty coop, we have to carry her to the other coop every night to roost with the rest of the chickens. And we have a broody hen. Plus we have a few that attempt to sneak out of the pen whenever we enter. And of course the rooster who often wants to fight me. We have 17 chickens now, 15 hens, 2 roos. Do you have any roosters? I am sorry to say that I haven’t kept up with your blog in the past few months, I’ll have to catch up!

    • robin says:

      Hi Lynn. We have one rooster that we kept. Don’t feel bad about not keeping up with the blog. I’ve been really bad about keeping up with the blogs on my reader too. The stubborn hen finally decided to start roosting after weeks of determined sleeping in the egg box.

  4. Dan of Henbogle says:

    Hi Robin and Lee!
    Chickens certainly have more skills than we give them we usually give them credit for! Ali and I hope that all is well with you and that you have fabulous New Year! – Dan

    • robin says:

      HI Dan and Ali!!!! Everything is well with us. I just haven’t had the mental energy to do much posting lately. Lee and I hope you have a wonderful New Year also! I was just thinking about you both today wondering when the call of the northwest was going to get you to travel over here again. hehe

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