Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Gift for the Chickens and Perhaps for Myself

(my chicks dreaming of digging in the pinestraw outside of their pen)

We live in a neighborhood that is very fortunate to be surrounded by forest.  Behind our houses there are nice wooded trails.  Recently I was taking a walk on the trails and to my surprise ran into four hens and a rooster!  Come to find out one of the homes that sits on several acres behind our neighborhood owns a few chickens.  I have heard the rooster crowing in the distance on occasion, but was not sure where it came from.  Seeing this little group of feathered friends really gave me the "itch" to let my chickens roam a little.  So, a few days ago I brought out the treat can and bravely let out my most tame and favorite hen, Blackie, and to my relief found that if I shook the treat can that she would follow me wherever I went.  The next day it was time for me to change out the wood shavings in the chicken house and to do some minor maintenance, change out their water, and refill their feeder, etc...  So, I left their pen door open and set them free!  At first they weren't really sure if they should be outside the pen, but it didn't take them long to start scratching around in the pine straw and leaves, looking for grass, roots, and tasty bugs.  They quickly embraced their new found freedom!  As I cleaned out the house, the four girls stayed close to their home for several minutes, but soon they had wandered from the wooded area where their pen stands to our back lawn.  Honestly, I can say that I was grinning ear to ear just enjoying the sight of them enjoying being "free range" chickens as they should be.  The four girls wandered in a tight group like very best friends all around my backyard.  Before long, though, they were wandering into my neighbor's yard, so I got out the treat can and gave it a few shakes and they started heading towards me and back into our yard.  Whew!  I was very relieved to know they ALL understood the sound of the "treat can shake".  I'm sure all of the neighbors think I am crazy!  So, I let my hens enjoy their happiness a while longer, but soon had to round them up and put them back into their pen.  The four of them wandered toward the sound of the shaking can following me slowly as they found tasty tidbits along the way.  I let them take their time.  They all eventually made it back into the pen, except for Meanie, who has always been my problem hen.  I had to get my husband to come and help me round her up, but it wasn't too difficult.  I also had a lighter heart the rest of my day just knowing I had possibly given the feathered gals a nicer and more eventful day.  Sometimes it really is the simple moments that make us truly happy.  I even allowed the four gals back out today for a little while.  Since, I live on only one acre in a neighborhood, I don't think I will ever be able to let them roam freely without my watch.  If I did, the neighbors might not like it if they roamed over and munched down their flower gardens, nor would it be a pretty picture if one of my hens became a tasty fresh meal for one of the neighbor dogs, but on days that I have some extra time to keep them under my watchful eye, I think I will be letting them have more wonderful moments of freedom.

This week, my husband and I repainted our kitchen.  When we were done, I told my husband that I wanted to get a chicken painting to go on one of the walls.  He looked at me with raised eyebrows and said, "I will not allow you to become a crazy chicken lady!"  I was thinking to myself that it was already too late.  And as soon as Christmas is over, I plan on looking for that prefect chicken painting!

I wish all of you a Very Merry and Peaceful Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year!  I hope they are filled with simple and happy moments!
(Whitey - with a dirty beak and beard.  The hazards of her new freedom adventure digging in the pine straw and the downside of being a white chicken.)

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