When Lucy and Ethel grew up enough to live outside with Bossy, in their own cage inside the chicken yard, I though Bossy would pitch a fit. She peered at the new chicks, one eyebrow raised as if to say, “Who are you and how long do you plan to visit?” She didn’t get feisty until she realized they were there to stay. Then she would regularly strut over to their cage and give it a resounding peck, just to remind them who’s boss. It didn’t faze Lucy and Ethel in the least. Baby chicks are so trusting and believe everyone loves them.
The chicks were beginning to look like smaller versions of Bossy and had a hankering for more space. I was cleaning out their cage when Lucy decided to take a fluttering leap over the top and straight into Bossy. I held my breath and slowly inched over toward Lucy hoping to intercept her before Bossy lit into her. I was too slow and ended up chasing Lucy all over the yard with Bossy giving chase. It’s amazing how fast a chicken can move when they want to. I ended up grabbing at Lucy, caught her by the tail feathers and flipped her back into the cage. She was none too thrilled with me.
I created portable runs so I could put them all out in the grass to graze. I have a special run for the young ones that attaches to a dog crate. I covered the crate with a tarp to give them shelter from rain and some shade on sunny days. Lucy and Ethel inhabited that run together. I made another run that I covered with a sheet on sunny days for Bossy. I kept her in the chicken yard if it rained and on pretty days she never stayed out as long as the young girls.
The runs are made of flexible pipe arched over so they stand about 1 ½’ tall. I attached them to some rigid PVC pipe made into a rectangle 2 ‘ X 8’. It is covered with small hole chicken wire over the arched top, down the sides and capping both ends. I cut a door in one end of the young girls run so I could hook the dog crate to it. I created four U-shaped thick wire “pins” to push into the ground over the PVC pipe to keep the run from being turned over by a predator. The runs are easy to maneuver around the yard and the young girls love being mobile. The biggest plus is, the runs are small enough to put anywhere in the garden so the girls can do my weeding for me.
Bossy, it appears, was none too pleased with the whole affair. She was stressed over the change and started losing feathers at an alarming rate. It took me while to discern she wasn’t happy being out- I obviously wasn’t taking enough time observing her. When I finally did, I noticed she would look for worms and bugs for about a minute, then stand there and pull out her feathers, filling the bottom of her run with a downy covering.
I began to leave Bossy in the chicken yard when I took the young girls out. This was still too much for her delicate constitution. She eventually looked like a plucked chicken ready for roasting, all except the pathetic bent, ragged feather she had left on her tail. What a sight. I would have laughed, she looked that ridiculous, but it would have hurt her feelings.
I opted to keep everyone in their respective areas in the chicken yard until Bossy grew her feathers back. That’s been a while now, and I still don’t have the nerve to try putting them out to graze again. It was just too traumatic for Bossy. So now I’m doing the grazing for them. They are eating grass, comfrey, plantain and collards, along with all my vegetable scraps and loving it. Their yolks are almost orange so I know they are getting all they need. I wish I could let them out to run free and graze on their own, but the osprey continues to fly over daily to check out the situation. I’m not losing another one that way.