Today marked the end of the Little Red Hens’ compulsory confinement to their chicken tractor. They’d lasted six days in the coop and could now be trusted to roam freely without forgetting where they needed to go home to roost.
With great ceremony and anticipation, we flung open the door to the coop and….nothing happened. The chickens stayed quite contentedly in their cage, completely ignoring the wide open gate leading to freedom. Hardly surprising, really. We bought them from the local poultry farm and, like many farmed birds, they had no experience of free-range conditions.
After ten minutes there were still no signs the chickens were planning on going anywhere. No tentative steps towards the door, no curious looks. Nothing. Zilch. What an anti-climax!
Actually, I tell a lie. Something did happen. A pair of brightly coloured parrots, one red, one green, flapped over and landed on the roof of the pergola, perched directly above the chicken coop, and began watching the proceedings. I could almost hear them cackling to one another as they looked at the chickens, “Well, really! They let anyone free-range these days!”
Before long, the parrots got tired of the whole charade and flapped off to look cute elsewhere.
Finally one brave chicken took a step outside and soon after the other two followed. The next few hours the chickens spent getting used to the extra room, pecking at the grass and gazing through the house yard gate towards the paddocks beyond.
We’re not keen on letting the hens free-range too far for now – we want to keep a few fences between them and any other animals that might like chicken for diner.
Chickens dreaming of life beyond the house yard
P.S. I know next to nothing about bird identification, so this evening I dragged out our field guide to Australian birds. Looking at the book, I ‘think’ the parrots are Australian King Parrots (the red one being the boy and the green one the girl). Bird watchers, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!