Here are some photos taken today of some of the girls in our flock.
Our chickens are true free range happy hens. Even in today's organic market, free range simply means non-caged. So it's still possible to be a chicken locked indoors eating only feed pellets and still be labelled organic--and once you know chickens you know what a sad life this is for them.
Our girls have a sizable fenced outdoor "day run", that is roughly 1000 square feet or so, located at the back of our 1/2 acre yard. (The size of the day run is a topic of debate around the house--Michael thinks the day run is about 3000 square feet and I think it's about 1000 sqauare feet. We'll let you know when we measure it...) Most of the run is located under doug firs and noble firs, but a good portion gets ample sun. The chickens have plenty of space to run, scratch, take dust baths, hunt for bugs, and even fly up to the lowest branches of the trees and roost.
At night our hens go into a coop, which is wood construction on cement slab. A number of predators, even in the urban environment, will happily eat chickens, especially racoons. We lock the chickens in nightly in order to protect them. While we think the chickens are bright creatures, their ability to foil predators is extremely limited!
On a near daily basis we let the girls out of the day run for yard time. Often this means just our back yard area, and on the weekends we let them up in the front yard to scratch around in our lawn and garden. Chickens are suprisingly destructive and quickly take a yard down to nothing but scratched up dirt, so we try to make sure they have daily access to fresh greens (dandelions are a favorite) and fresh hunting ground for bugs. There are many key times of year that the chickens are not allowed in the garden. They can quickly destroy seedlings and starts, love tomatoes, and adore eating greens.
If you ever have aphid-infested cabbage, greens, etc. that you would like to get rid of, please consider dropping them off at our house to feed to our hens. They love the greens, but the added treat of aphids is like chocolate sprinkles on ice cream to them! Aphid-infested greens need to be dropped off fairly quickly, before they wilt, or the chickens will lose interest in them..