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The Art Of Moving Chickens

We have to keep a lot of flexibility in our work schedule. But we have learned (often by our mistakes!) that understanding the nature of our animals and working WITH them is critical.

For example – it is important to move our laying hens from their winter quarters to the summer pasture at night (once they are snoozing away on their roosts). But, once they are living on the pasture, moving them and their mobile roost each day must be done in the morning.

You might be asking “Why?”

The first big move is at night because that’s when they are groggy. Basically it is easier to move them gently and quietly to crates, take the crates to the field, then transfer them to their new mobile roosting cart. It’s not that different than taking a sleeping child from their car seat to their crib. If you don’t jostle them, they just resettle for the night.

But their day-to-day field habits are different. These same chickens have freedom to strut around and forage for bugs, but they also instinctually know that the roost provides water, food and safety. So, at some point each morning they seem to “geo-locate” where they are, and lock in that location as where they will lay their eggs. The result is, if you move the mobile roost later in the day, they will not want to go to the new roosting site, even if the roost is only moved 30 yards away – totally visible to them. Instead, the remain huddled in the pasture where it used to be.

So, in a way, I guess the chickens tell us when they should be moved. Which just goes to show, they rule the roost.

Tunnels – Above & Below Ground

We did assemble two more high tunnels this past week. They really make a difference because they help the soil capture some added solar energy which boosts plant growth and productivity. And because the high tunnels can be moved, we can place them where most needed as the weather dictates and planting cycles change.

As for digging “tunnels” below ground … well, now that the danger of freezing is past, we completed our water-distribution system throughout the garden and extended it out to the pastures. But we have decided not to bury them underground – just yet!

Although we carefully planned the hose configuration, we are leaving them above ground – fully operational -- for now because once we bury them any changes are difficult. This will allow us time to assess the natural “flow” of our daily/weekly routines. And over time, our worn paths will make it clear if each spigot placement is good, or if we need to make an adjustment. In the end, saving steps (that are repeated hundreds of times) can save us a lot of time.