Chickens in the Garden
As far as I am concerned being a veggie gardener and keeping a few chickens goes hand in hand. I have three chooks called Rag, Tag and Bobtail who give me hours of amusement and my husband hours of clearing up of all the stones etc they dump on the lawn as they scratch about before he can cut the lawn (or so he says).
I've had them about a year now and they are so tame - when I walk down the garden I look like the pied piper with the three of them waddling behind me (yes I'm sure it's a waddle!), Bobtail in particular is very vocal and chirrups away all the time, she loves to sit beside me or on my knee when I'm on the garden bench, my grandson calls her the stroking chicken. They eat all the veggie leftovers and are particularly fond of tomatoes, they make short work of the leaves of broccoli and cabbages and during the winter when there is nothing much growing on some of the beds they have the run of the veg plot where they make short work of any slugs and other nasties lurking in the soil adding fertiliser as they go.
By the time spring comes there isn't a weed in sight and the soil is lovely and friable where they have been scratching all I need to do is rake it level and plant and sow, this is the point when it becomes off limits to them! All I use shade netting to create a moveable barrier and it works very well.
Some weeks ago Bobtail started making different noises and her behaviour changed, I thought she was ill but she had turned broody and with much fluffing up of feathers (except those on her chest as she'd plucked them all out!) and growling noises she ensconced herself in the nest box and wouldn't let the others near it - she turned into Hell Chook! On a rare foray out of the run for a quick bite and a drink she - who is the gentlest creature alive normally - chased my dad's little Yorkie round the garden screaming like a banshee and pecking at her tail! They all normally rub along together very well.
I haven't a cockerel so I had to lift her off to get the eggs until she eventually stopped laying, but she was still sitting on nothing and getting very sulky and run down, her comb was all shrivelled and pale instead of perky and red as she wasn't feeding properly, the other two had to lay wherever they could away from her. I started lifting her out of the nest box (she wouldn't let anyone else do it, she'd just peck them) and closing the door so she couldn't get in for an hour or so but she was distressed after five minutes. I searched for answers as this had been going on for over a month and eventually isolated her within the run but in a large wire dog basket I borrowed and raised up on bricks so there was plenty of air around her to cool off those raging hormones! After three days in isolation she was back to her normal self, so if it happens again that's the first thing I'll do.
She is normally the last in the pecking order so when I started finding her feathers all over I thought Rag and Tag were making up for lost time and giving her a hard time but no, she has started moulting - she looks like an escapee from the chicken plucking factory! When you pick her up it looks as though there's been a pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere!
But she is at least laying again so I'm getting my three eggs a day and she's back to her normal happy self, even if she does look rather tatty we love her anyway!