Free Range Suburban Chickens

Chickens are one of the best parts of our little suburban garden, barnyard-ish, whatever you want to call it, set up.  We currently have 5, I’d like to get 5 more, this would max us out for our city regulations.  We get between 2 and 4 eggs a day right now.  We use to get 5 a day in the cooler months, but we lost a good layer due to the heat this summer.  118 is a little rough on any animal and she was one of the bigger hens.  I’m pretty sure one of them is NOT laying, but to tell you the truth there are a couple of them that I really can’t tell apart and I’m 90% certain it is one of them.

We feed them an organic, non-soy, non-corn, non-Canola, and non-GMO feed that is trucked down here from Montana.  You can get in on “the deal” here if you live in the valley.  It is the best price for good feed that I have found.  About the same price as the organic feed at Pet Club, but you get 25% more of it and the quality of the feed is SO much better.

These are “the ladies” as we call them.

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We have a large chicken run, that is about 400 square feet.  Seems plenty big for five birds. But we have an issue.  Anybody notice anything about “the ladies?”

Let me give you a hint.  One of these things is not like the others…

Yup, there is a PRETTY one.  One hen is fully feathered and absolutely gorgeous.  And she spends a good portion of her time guaranteeing that none of the other ones will be anywhere nearly as beautiful.

She picks on the other ones.  A lot.

So we decided that we would “free range” them, as much as possible in a suburban back yard anyway, and It is definitely helping.  They have better access to all of the bugs in our backyard, which hypothetically helps keep them out of the house, and they have more room to move around, run away from each other… even hide from each other.  They eat grass, bugs, weeds, lots of random tidbits here and there, and less feed than previously.  Bonus all around!

It seems to be working, all of the hens are showing more feather growth.  One of them is even starting to lose her bald spot.  I actually mistook her for the pretty one this morning when I let them out of the coop.

The funny thing is that the super mean one is actually really sweet to people.  She doesn’t run away, in fact she runs up to you, will follow you around, and doesn’t mind being picked up.  She’s really nice… unless you’re another chicken.

I also noticed that she struggled less with the heat this summer than any of the other hens.  Her eggs are a little smaller than some of the others, but she is very consistent.  All around a good chicken, just not so hen-friendly.

We home school our children and so my kids are home all day.  They watch the chickens and even pet and play with them.  They are pets in a sense.  Not our only pets, we still have a lizard, a snake, and this guy.

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I was a little concerned about free ranging the chickens with him around, I thought his hunting instincts would kick in and he would end up with a chicken dinner.  So when we started integrating them I was a little cautious.  Fortunately the chickens set the tone for the relationship by putting our little Buddy in his place.  Look at the chicken picture again.  See the scrawniest, littlest, most picked on hen?  Yeah, she chased Buddy across the yard pecking on his backside.

Finally somebody that SHE could pick on.  Oh yes, it’s official, the dog is the lowest chicken in the pecking order.

Kind of pathetic, but it’s probably better that way.

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15 Responses to Free Range Suburban Chickens

  1. woodlandrealm10 says:

    Oh I wish we could have chickens! (Our lot is too small for the city to allow it, only short by less than 100 square feet, lol, I called and tried to get them to bend the rules, but no luck) Your chickens look so fun!! Good luck with getting your next ten 😀

  2. Wow. Looking at your chickens I would have swore you had an aggressive rooster in there.

  3. We started with 5 and they all got along but when we added the next 7 we developed issues of who is in and who is out. I’d have never believed the bullying if I didn’t see it myself. The number of eggs fluctuates with the weather, but they are all delicious. We have several acres but have neighbors and a road so we can’t free range but have a covered large run so they are outside all year.

  4. Great post. Suburban chickens brings to mind images of minivan, and SUV shaped laying boxes 🙂

  5. Sheri Fox says:

    I am getting chickens in spring from a friend and I’m so excited! At least I’ll already know which ones are nice and mean. Oh and I can’t figure out how to message you but I wanted to let you know I separated my gardening blog from my sculpture blog. I’m now babbling about gardening and cooking at http://unfetteredfox.wordpress.com ~

  6. pobept says:

    Hens that are being picked and pecked by an aggressive hen will become stressed and will in many cases stop laying. The best thing to do with an aggressive chicken be it a hen or rooster is to have a nice pot of chicken soup.
    Good luck

    • I’ve thought of that many times… unfortunately she’s a beautiful chicken and really nice to the kids. I’ve thought about isolating her for a while, but I’m not quite ready to send her to freezer camp.

  7. Jeannie S says:

    We got chickens for the first time this spring and they are fun. We plant ourselves in lawn chairs out by the chicken coop/run and just watch their antics. We call it “Hillbilly TV”! Our 20 girls have a big run and are not supposed to be free range, but about 5 are! We had chickens flying the coop earlier this summer, so added another 2 feet of fence to the top – but 5 are still getting over it! They fly half way up and crawl the rest of the way over! If they hear us out front working on something, they come around to visit, and scratch in my flower beds, sending mulch everywhere. We tried square foot gardening in raised beds this summer, as well. Would be interested in seeing what yours looked like with things growing in them. We found that we had trouble keeping the plants all in the boxes, and going up the trellised, instead of hanging over the boxes onto the ground! We’re gonna try some fall/winter cold frame gardening, too, just off the back deck – used old shower doors for the lids on the boxes. The gardening, chickens and bees are keeping us busier that we expected in our retirement!
    Jeannie S from Hive and Honey BEEpothecary

    • Sounds like my kind of TV! I’ve never seen the chickens climb a fence, I clip our ladies’ wings back to the secondary feathers. It seems to help, but man can they jump! Great idea on the shower doors. I have been thinking about bees but I’m just a little too busy right now to take on any new adventures that have a large learning curve.

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