Friday, 11 February 2011

On my mind - The great free range debate

Well I've decided to finally make time to take part in something that Rhoda from Down to Earth has been talking about - 'On my mind'  to share a photoabout something you've been thinking about.

Well here is mine - The great free range debate - do I want the hens 'free range' all over the place - or 'free range' with limits. Excuse the bad photo - its taken typically out of the sunny room window looking out into a bit of the garden - with all 12 hens in the garden having a little plod about. Previously (prior to winter) they were in a couped up area - happy - occassionally escaping, but nevertheless - out of the garden!!!! Now I like them moving about - but I want to grow stuff - so I don't know what the compromise it - they have a couple of acres to wander around in and seem to prefer the garden.

Two options - I can fence them out and let them wander everywhere else but the garden - or fence them into their own (large) enclosure.

What do you think?


  1. I tried fencing mine in a large run, but relented quite quickly because it was so *dull* - they are far more entertaining to have about when they are completely free-ranging. And being fox-free here, I feel, is too good an opportunity not to exploit. My garden is currently too difficult to fence in so I try to protect each individual bed - with some success. I'm down to only three hens now and when they finally go to the great henhouse in the sky I won't restock until I can find a way to keep them IN their one acre field and OUT of my garden.
    alice in stronsay

  2. If you have plenty of prickly branches you could allow them to be free range, give them the pick of the slugs, but protect your seedlings?

  3. I don't know anything about keeping hens but they always seem very content when they are left to get on with it.
    To have them eating your wee plants would be pretty heartbreaking though.
    I hope you and they can work out some arrangement that suits everyone.

  4. Could you not use net cloches to protect the seedlings and then as the plants get bigger lash canes together ao make a frame and cover it with net, if the net is fine enough it will keep the bugs out too......but the hens will be able to forage for grubs.

    We did thid quite successfully to keep the pigeons off our crops at the allotment.

  5. Hellooo:)
    Lovely posts on sewing seeds and stuff:)
    **Copy message to all blogfriends -I'm locked out of magicalmeadows by Blogger because I messed up my passwords. If I can't rectify it today looks like I'll have to start up a new blog *sigh* right when I'm at my busiest. In the meantime you can email me if needs be on** End message.
    Hope you have a lovely weekend
    love pamela xxx

  6. Alice you've a good point there - no foxes here - they are safe enough bumbling about - I could protect the bed individually - but given how much I'd like to grow I'm worried about the amount of extra netting etc I'd need and if it would even remain on the garden if we get a bad gale. One to think about though, thank you for popping by - my near neighbour!!

  7. Janet - great idea but they would be blown away or into the plants constantly by the wind - the main issue really is the wind and the damage the chickens might do too - great thinking though!!

    Hi there silversewer - good point too - I'm concerned about how much wind that kind of thing might take - I'd need to use stobs (fence posts) to have any lunk of anything styaing and if I fence post and wire my whole garden I think I might end up doing more of that than gardening!!

    I might nick that idea to use around the veggie garden though.

    Great stuff though please do keep the ideas coming :) I really appreciate it.

    Maybe its a case of free range hens or free range garden? Its a tough one - I'm thinking the ideas on here might work if tweaked a bit...........hmm - thank you!!

    Pamela nice to see you here :) Hope you get it sorted!

  8. Julie thank you - given how much effort a plant puts into growing here - I'd be definitely heartbroken if it got scoffed/trod on/pulled out by a hen - its a balance though because I do like them mulling about. Normal netting won't cut it here - more thinking me thinks!
    Nice to see you :)

  9. How about fencing them out of the garden and letting them in when you have plants at a less vulnerable stage so they can poop and eat slugs...say in the autumn. I'm not sure what chickens will peck at and when... but you'd learn quickly!

  10. Hi there Byddi - not a bad plan, over the winter they've had free reign out there - nowt to bother and they are doing a good job of clearing under the willow hedge each day I go out and they've had a good scratch and got up most of the weeds and having a rare old time. Maybe I can do that. They are beginning to grub about at the wee things we have in here - so I think soon they need to be ofski! More to think about - time share free ranging - maybe that is the way forward...........hmmmmm thinking now!
    Thank you!

  11. I believe I would fence my garden and only let them in that area during dormant periods to help with bug clean-up and a good digging.

  12. Thank you Becky - I'm concocting a half baked plan............with a help from you all and I really appreciate it!

  13. Hello Fay, I've been lurking and enjoying your blog for weeks. Sorry I've not comment before...

    As I understand Rhoda's thinking, she lets her hens into the fenced veg garden to help 'clean things up' prior to planting, after that she restricts the girls to the other fenced area of the backyard to gad about. I think it's a clever idea and puts the chooks to work, earning their keep. Good luck with your gang. :-D