Chickens in the Tractor
Easter Sunday brought new horizons to the chickens. Finally they were allowed out into the tractor. The largest bird, one of the Americaunas, was almost touching her head to the screen over the top of the Sterilite container in which they lived. The girls were a little startled at the sunlight, and didn’t quite understand about grass at first. Then they got into scratching with their already huge feet and pecking off weed tips.
Unfortunately, the Barred Rocks girls are still smaller than the others and were being pecked and chased by the larger girls. They chose their corner and the big girls grouped on the other side of the tractor. They all wandered and changed positions with some pecking going on. The BRs were just too frightened, so I set the bird cage in which they had been living into the chicken tractor and put them into it. They have their own food and water, perches, and are able to be with the big girls without being set upon. Funny thing, though, the BRs would hop up onto the two cross-boards when escaping the big girls, but I’ve never seen one of the big ones up on the boards. I think this is because the BRs lived in the bird cage and learned to perch!
I was wary about allowing the dogs out into the yard with the chickens in the tractors. In their younger days, these two killed all of our chickens who were loose in our backyard. It was a Valentine’s Day massacre. That was the day DC met her end (see post about DC the chicken). Now that the dogs are senior citizens and mostly deaf, they didn’t take as much interest as before.
When they came too close to the cage, I used a spray bottle of water and admonishments. It seems to have done the trick. That spray bottle is what keeps the cats under control in the house, too. I just have to pick it up and all bad activity stops. I wish it worked on kids as well!
At night, the chickens still don’t know how to get up onto their loft. After dark my son and I go out there and drape a blanket around the BR’s birdcage for warmth, and find the big girls in a group on the ground. Chickens at night are like footballs, and can be picked up easily and placed into their loft. We’ve tried to get them to walk up the ramp, but it is too much of a learning curve for them. We’ve also set them up on their loft during the day, but they just flutter down. I have to believe that they’ll grow into it.
It is nice to have the chickens out of the side room, and really good for them to be scratching and pecking and enlarging their diet with grass and bugs. They certainly eat a lot of chicken food. Pretty soon it will be lay mash time!