Rosie the Ringleader and the Houdini Hens

We had a lovely visit from Brooklyn-based food and lifestyle photographer Alexandra Grablewski this week. She took pictures of us and just about everything on the farm but she was particularly fascinated with the chickens. It’s hard not to be—they are totally entertaining. Especially when they get out of their yard and go on walk-abouts.

I usually know when one or more has escaped the chicken yard, because I hear Farmer whining. He gets terribly upset if I don’t go out and immediately pick them up and return them to the pen. But often this happens during the day when I’m working—plus I know it’s probably just Rosie. Rosie (pictured here) is the independent type and seems to like using her wings to fly over a tall fence every morning. Occasionally two, three, or four follow her, and I can generally round those gals up without help. Roy claims I am the worst chicken rounder-upper out there, and it may be true.

But a couple times in the past week there’s been a mass exodus, so we’ve both had to do our rounding-up best. Look, it’s not like they don’t have a huge yard and fresh grass to feed on. They shouldn’t feel the need to travel—it’s just that, well, chickens like to cross the road, or the yard, or anything. In both of those cases, the culprit has been an unlatched or partially latched door they’ve managed to push open. (Of course we have no idea who would leave the gate unlatched!) And herding 48 laying hens is nothing short of comical.

Usually if you get close to them they’ll squat and let you pick them up. But a few are flighty and will just fuss and squawk and ruffle their feathers and generally be obstinate about the whole returning home thing. These are the ones who wind up underneath the tractor, in a thicket of brambles and branches, or over in the perennial flowers. Rosie will be hanging out with them, you can just count on it.

Eventually, with a chicken (or two) under each arm, we get them all back in. And then there’s the whole going-to-bed problem. Forty-three of the chickens go inside the coop just like chickens are supposed to do when the sun goes down. But five of them have decided that the best roosting spot is on top of the water trough out in the yard. So they have to be picked up and stuck inside the coop one by one. (Roy does this every night.) And if you do it too soon, they’ll just start coming back out as you’re getting the last one in.

Perhaps there’s a reason man started eating chickens so many years ago. Might be easier than keeping laying hens. The eggs are pretty darn tasty though.

P.S. Alexandra’s photos of the farm and chickens are for a future project, so we won’t be able to share any of them for awhile–but promise it will happen when the time comes!

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