21 August 2011

Containing the Chickens

Earlier this week some of the chickens decided to hop the fence and go exploring in our neighbor's yard.  There have been a few times before when one has ended up there and we've had to go catch them (we thought they were spooked and flew over the fence and couldn't get back), but this time was different.  I watched a few of them perch on the fence, at its lowest point, look down into the neighbor's shrubs and hop down there.  I knew I shouldn't worry about them - they would be back - but the fact that they could escape that easily bothered me.  I also didn't know how the neighbors felt about it either.

They were back a little while later, which made me feel better, but I saw it happen again the next day.  Our black rooster has risen to the position of alpha male in the flock and this time it was he who lead the incursion, followed by the six hens, who have turned into his little harem.  I mentioned this on Facebook and my aunt recommended that I should clip their wings.  I read many times about doing that before we had chickens, but it hadn't occurred to me to do so.  At the time, my first thought was to put up a taller fence, which I had always thought I might have to do in the future.

Thinking it might be a huge undertaking to catch and clip the wings of every chicken, I opted to clip only the wings of the alpha rooster.  My theory was that if the hens followed him around, and he couldn't jump the fence, that would contain all the chickens.  My first attempt at catching the rooster was rough.  I was able to get my hands on him, but he fought so much that I couldn't hold onto him.  I was back to the idea of taller fencing, but in the meantime, I really didn't want to let them out of the pen, because I didn't know what they would do.

On a whim this afternoon, I was able to catch the rooster fairly easily, and got Robin to help me clip his wings.  I had never done this before, but I had read enough about it, that I thought we could do it.  We trimmed the flight feathers on both wings - even though they say you only have to do one.  I wanted a little extra assurance that he wouldn't leave the yard.  After doing this, I wished some one had taken photos.  When I mentioned that we should do the other rooster so we could get photos for this blog, Ella go upset that we would do that just for the photos - so all I have is the diagram.

Thinking we were safe from chickens leaving the yard, I let them out to forage.  Much to my surprise, the hens immediately jumped the fence, and the recently-clipped rooster wasn't too happy about it.  At that point there was nothing I could do until it was time for bed.  Hours later I come home to find only one chicken in the yard - the silkie.  The hens are in the neighbor's yard with the black rooster - I'm not sure how he got there, but he might have trouble getting back.  And the other rooster is in the other neighbor's yard.  He was frantically trying to get back into the yard by running back and forth along the fence.  We've dealt with this before - both Ella and I tried separately to get him back over with no luck.  He's going to have to try a little harder, or let us help him.

A taller fence is definitely going up back there soon.  I just have to figure out the logistics.  After talking to some neighbors, the best plan is going to be putting up a fence AND clipping their wings.  I don't know why ours have such wanderlust and others we know are so well-behaved?

No comments: