Several blogs ago, I wrote about how Elaine and I placed a bale of straw in our chicken run. The chickens have relished destroying the bale, scratching and pecking their way through it.
In about two weeks, the hard-packed bale was reduced to scattered straw. Elaine then spread the straw evenly around the fenced in run. And then the chickens had more fun, delightedly scratching through the duff every day.
Every time we bring the birds a treat (their favorites include scratch corn, Cheerios, Total Cereal, and bread of any kind) they enthusiastically scratch for hours looking for the last morsel.
We have decided not to free range the birds, knowing that they would last less than a week in our wooded 38 acres. At least 13 different predators would make short work of them. What we have done instead is let the birds out of the run in the evening and under our supervision, the chickens scratch their way across our yard.
The five hens are still producing well, providing us with three to five eggs daily. However, they are moulting now and we expect egg production to suffer.