The last three days have been sunny and warm, with highs pushing 60. The chickens, who don’t seem inclined to want to leave their run when it’s snowy and cold, start a full-court press for freedom when the sun’s out and the ground begins to warm. They take up their little signs and pace back and forth along the side of the run. “Free range! Free range!” they squawk.
We want to let them out, but the risk-reward calculation is the same as it was a month ago. There’s still not much good foraging, and there’s no protective leaf cover under which they can hide from passing hawks.
What there is, though, is a garden full of the winter rye we planted as a cover crop. If we put them out in that, we can stay close enough to discourage hawks, and they can have a beautiful afternoon’s outing, eating some much-needed greens and taking dust baths on the perimeter. The grass is surrounded by a chicken-wire fence, so they can’t go rogue, and we can put them back in the run when play-time’s over.
I suppose there’s no real way to determine if a chicken is happy. They don’t smile or laugh, and they certainly can’t tell you. But, roaming around the grass field, eating their fill with the sun on their backs, they certainly looked happy. I know I was happy.