The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Chicken wrangler

Chickens in the weedsMark had gone into town to mail chicken waterers on Friday morning, and I was happily mulching the garden when what did I see coming around the corner but....eleven chickens!  Those old hens must have talked up sun-warmed raspberries until our Golden Comet cockerel decided to lead as many of his siblings as he could around the bend and up into the garden.

Luckily for me, Black Australorps are very different foragers than Golden Comets.  While the Golden Comets head straight for color and then scratch up the mulch, the Australorps Alert chickenswere more interested in picking bugs off the undersides of leaves in the tall weeds of the forest garden.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that Black Australorps aren't as easy to capture as Golden Comets either.  Our Golden Comets are some of the easiest chickens you've ever wrangled --- if they don't crouch down at your feet and let you pick them up, they'll follow the sound of feed rattling in a cup and come right back to the coop.  On the other hand, Black Australorps are such good foragers that grain in a cup doesn't sound nearly as good as that grasshopper you startled, and I couldn't even wrap my mind around Chickens running into the woodstrying to catch eleven chickens all by my lonesome. 

What I could do, though, was herd those pesky rascals back to their pasture and lock them in.  There's a trick to herding a flock of chickens --- you want them alert enough to flock together rather than spreading out to forage, but not so scared that they scatter in every direction.  If you keep your eye on the roosters and head those leaders off when they try to walk the wrong way, then everyone else will follow.  A big hat in your extended hand turns you into two people --- one pushing the main flock forward and another reminding that cockerel who's about to bolt that he doesn't really want to veer off to the right.  Finally, keep your dog behind or beside the flock ---  no way those chickens are going to run straight into the teeth of a canine.

Blocking up a holeOnce Lucy and I thought the problem through, we made short work of herding the chickens back around the barn and into the floodplain.  Then I blocked up that hole under the gate that I'd intentionally left open to let our flock free range.  Sorry guys --- I know your pastures are overgrazed, but you're grounded.  There'll be a lot more elbow room next week, I promise.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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