We’ve had some trouble with electrifying our poultry netting this year. I think my charger has gone on the fritz. It couldn’t possibly be user error. We’ll just rule that out from the beginning. Whatever the cause, we’ve had some amusing and sometimes scary side effects related to the problem. Essentially, without the electricity, the netting is nothing more than a visual barrier. Even 8 week old chicks figured it out.
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, we are moving from a chicken tractor confined model, where we move the tractor every day with chickens inside, to a ranging model where the chickens stay in the tractor overnight for safety, but spend the day in open foraging. We’ve had excellent results with the layers this season. We’re happier, the chickens seem happier and the pastures are cleaner than we ever could have imagined.
Earlier this week Brittan decided to go ahead and let the broilers loose inside a poultry net perimeter. The young uns were delighted. They spread out inside the range and went straight to work harvesting grass and other edibles. B finished her chores and went home.
I’ve been working late at the office this week, so we have been getting out to the farm a bit later than usual. It’s also resulted in us racing against storms to ensure all the animals have access to shelter and that the birds are safely tucked away for the night.
So the other evening, like the second day of the chicks ranging, as we pull into the driveway at the farm, B groans, “Oh no. Chickens are everywhere.” Sure enough, the broilers had abandoned their range for the freedom of the entire 4 acre field surrounding it. I feared we would spend the entire evening rounding up juvenile Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. I was not feeling cheerful.
I seriously under estimated our little yard birds. The moment they saw us coming with feed, they charged straight towards us, just like their grown up cousins do. One minute, 60 or so birds are all over the farm, and before I could get a camera out to grab some pictures, they are swarming around Brittan like a school of piranhas. The photos at least show them well outside the pen, then at the entrance and finally back inside the netting.
We were a little apprehensive about moving to free range. We wanted to do it, but were afraid the chickens would wander off, never to be seen again. We were wrong. For small scale operators (we only have two small flocks of layers and one of broilers), free range is fantastic. It is visually appealing, practical and beneficial. Our only real problem is that we do have to have a brief egg hunt in the evenings as a few of the layers like to find hidden corners and nooks to lay in rather than return to their nest boxes. Apart from that minor inconvenience, it’s all good.