Although our second
batch of chicks is free ranging, our first batch failed
miserably at their most recent opportunity to graze in the woods.
We've spent the last year slowly building fences that nearly enclose
our entire garden, so I thought we might get away with letting the
eleven week old broilers walk out a new pophole in the back of their
coop and explore the powerline cut and woods beyond. That
morning, I closed off access to the two pastures they're familiar with,
opened the new pophole....
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...and waited, and
waited, and waited. Finally, around 3 pm, I got sick of hearing
cooped up birds fluttering around inside their house and I decided to
roust them out. One by one, I tossed cockerels and pullets out
the pophole and into the lush new pasture. At first, they tried
to scurry back inside out of terror, but once I got more than half the
flock outside, they achieved critical mass and started to band
together. Proud of myself, I headed back inside for a rest.
An hour later, I noticed
that a quarter of the broilers had flown over the fence, into their old
pasture! Yes, they are such scaredy-cats that they'd rather be in
an over-grazed, familiar place than exploring new, cicada-filled terrain. The
non-fliers were huddled against the fence, trying to be as close to
their brethren as possible. No one was taking advantage of the
yummy wild food.
Two hours after I pushed
birds out the pophole, they had followed the fenceline back to the one
break in our homestead perimeter. Since the chickens were too
close to the garden (and wanted to go back inside anyway), I herded
the flock back into their old pasture and shut the gate. I guess
they'll have to cope with worn out pasture for another week until they
hit the freezer.