Flying the coop: creating a free range chicken enclosure

Since our chickens joined us here on the smallholding a week ago we’ve developed a lovely routine whereby we go and check for eggs every day. Nothing can make our little boy beam like finding an egg that he can pluck out of the nest box and pop into his little egg basket to bear triumphantly back to the house (having politely thanked the hens). The hens took a few days to settle down but we’re getting at least one egg from the four every day at the moment which, given that we took them in to provide them with genteel retirement (and to use them as broody hens to hatch our meat birds next year), seems rather good value. I’m rather pleased that they’ve started to pull their weight because for we had one solitary egg in the first two days and my husband had started to mooch about the hen house muttering darkly about chicken soup and defective hens. Clearly these are survivalist chickens.

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Having spent almost a week in their little house and coop, it seemed like time that they had their own outdoor space. So this weekend we spent some time putting together a chicken net fence around their little house so that they can wander about at will. To be honest I thought they’d scurry around at speed but they’ve been quite cautious pecking around. Hopefully they’ll enjoy being truly free range chickens and up their egg production accordingly.

The arrival of an email from the charity we adopted them from saying that they probably had lice was less than welcome, and dusting them for said lice was pretty uncomfortable. They had to be captured by my husband, held upside down as they squawked at the general indignity of it all and then massaged with mite and louse powder. Specifically, their bottoms and the base of their wings had to have the powder rubbed into them and until you’ve rubbed powder into a chicken’s bottom, you don’t know what weird feels like. Still, it’s all in pursuit of happy eggs that come from happy organic chickens (that are occasionally serenaded with the Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune). It feels like we’re really actual smallholders now that caring for livestock has become a proper part of our routine!IMG_0716

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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