Houdini hens

Our chickens keep escaping.

We decided not long after moving in that we’d confine them to the back half of the garden, in order to give the flowers and vegetables a chance to grow. The chooks were just eating every shoot before it had a chance to show itself. And although we quite liked them raking the lawn – and fertilising it thoroughly – we weren’t so keen on their doing the same to the path.

It wasn’t Bert doing his guard dog thing that visitors (and the postie) had to watch out for as they came up the garden path – it was where they were putting their feet.

So we figured the chooks could have the run of the back, where there’s plenty of room and bushes to rummage under as well as lawn to roam around, and we’d try to make something a bit more cultivated of the front.

Giving the tulips a chance to grow...

Giving the tulips a chance to grow…

We rigged up a temporary affair of some chicken wire at each side of the house to contain them – it’s not ideal as we have to unpeg it every time we go to feed them, shut them up at night, or hang out or bring in any washing, but it’ll do the job until we get something more permanent organised.

Or so we thought. We should have known what would happen. We discovered during our move to Shetland that James Mason, in particular, was an expert escape artist, as described in a blog post on my old website. Here’s a quick extract:

‘By the time we got to our b&b where the simply wonderful Elizabeth and Graham allowed us to set up a chicken run in their back garden, the hens were no doubt thoroughly teed off with being cooped up in their house in the back of a van all day. So much so that James Mason had obviously decided that there was no way she was staying in the space we’d provided with a hastily assembled bit of chicken wire fencing. Oh no. We thought the wire would be high enough to stop her getting out, but no, she get over it. We put a roof of wire over the top, but no, she wormed her way out of that. And even after we’d folded and tucked and created seams so there were no possible holes, she still got out.’

No chicken wire can keep me in...

No chicken wire can keep me in…

The funny thing is that it’s only when we’re not there that they make any escape bids. If we’re at home and feeding them behind the wire throughout the day, they seem quite content to stay there. But if we’ve been out, inevitably we get home and, even as we’re parking the car, we can see them come running down to the garden gate to greet us, chucking and clucking and demanding food. And all it takes to get them back behind the wire – which, by the way, is always perfectly intact and exactly as we left it, so we’ve no idea where they’re escaping – is a handful of layers pellets.

I think they’re just doing it to tease us…

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