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Just when I started to settle into a sense of peaceful complacency with our backyard flock, they have given me a new storyline for my nightmares. They seem to have decided that our 800 square foot fenced backyard is either too small or too boring, and have begun venturing into the front yard. The problem is: as much as it may look similar to the backyard, there are some important differences: cars, dogs, and neighbors… to name a few. This is a first for us. In the past they’ve shown no desire to be out-of-sight of their coop. I completely blame Frances as the instigator (my trouble-making rebellious teen?), and I think the others are simply following along. If they would only stay close to the house, that would be one thing, but our neighbors informed us that they were in the middle of the street the other day. Granted, we do live on a dead-end street, so there is not much traffic, but occasionally we get a car tearing up the street… probably frustrated to discover that it’s a dead-end.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to do now. I’ve started locking them in their coop while we’re not home, but during the winter weekdays, that’s basically all day, so they have no grass-roaming, wing-flapping space, and aren’t nearly as happy. At least we have a nice big coop now, so they are not really being mis-treated, but with the ruckus they make, they sure think they are.

Any suggestions are welcome. I think I’ve found/blocked any holes that they could walk through to get to the front, but there really is no way to keep them from flying over the gates/fence. And I don’t want to clip their wings, because I’m sure they use them to escape the raccoons.

Like Curious George… good little hens… but VERY curious!

jailbird : hen in coop


24 thoughts on “jailbirds

  1. In my experience hens don’t fly as much as flap fiercely and jump for all they’re worth. Which means they don’t get very high and almost always land on a fence before hopping to the other side. What we did to discourage this is put floppy chicken wire at the top of the fence leaning in towards where they’d fly from. They either crash into it with their head which deters them or they land on it, it falls and they slide off backwards. It doesn’t take many attempts before they give up. Can you put something like that up (netting would also work) that’s sturdy enough to stop them flying through but weak enough not to hold them? You’d need to string it alone the fences they use to migrate to the front yard – possibly over your entire back fence. My bet is that after a couple of weeks you could remove it and they wouldn’t bother trying again – but that depends on Frances!

  2. We had a hen last year that was bound and determined she would not stay in the pen, but would come out into the yard. It seemed like it was something along the lines of “greener on the other side of the fence” and no matter how short we clipped her wings, she always managed to get out. Unfortunately, she is no more and not because we ate her or anything. She just upped and unexpectedly died. Scared us a bit as we hoped something wasn’t happening in the flock, which thankfully it wasn’t.

  3. Good luck! I’m sorry I don’t have any suggestions, but your post made me think of this errant hen that occasionally visits our front yard and feasts on all the bugs and worms out there. We don’t know where she lives, but she seems to know exactly where she is going!

    • Interesting! And you don’t mind that she wanders over? I think my neighbors would mind, given the fact that 2 sets tries to bring them back, and another left me a note about it. But I’m glad at least that I live in a neighborhood where people look out for each other.

  4. We don’t mind. Little A has already named her “Tillie” after this book about a wandering hen who lays her egg all over the farm called “Tillie Lays an Egg.” We did worry that she was lost or that she might get run over by cars but she seems to know to return home when it gets dark and also to stay on our side of the bushes to avoid traffic. So far so good!

    Of course, we also don’t mind because we don’t have any landscaping that we would need to preserve!

  5. We too had to control where our chickens roamed, so did a bit of chicken wire across gates (ugly but effective). Some of our younger hens could jump/fly up and over, but they soon stopped doing that as it was a little confusing for them. Sadly, with two day-time fox attacks, we have had to resort in electric fencing for an area. I don’t like it much, but will say it has definite merits: The chickens are safe from dog/fox/etc. attacks during the day and they are no longer finding their way into our vegetable beds. Oddly, they seem really content and mellow and are laying more now than ever. Who knew? Good luck!

    • I’ve heard that electric fences are good for this. That chickens learn quickly (and foxes/dogs stay away). I believe that after the chickens understand that tape means a zap, you can use similar tape with no charge to control where they go. Stringing a bit in the back garden attached to a power source for the chickens to learn from could mean you could later put some on the fence with no power but the chickens will stay away from the fence (and from any part of the garden you want to keep them out of).

      The one problem I’ve heard with this type of fencing is you have to keep the grass down because if it touches the fence, the fence shorts. This makes it difficult on a farm but no problem in a backyard.

      Oh, and the cost. Not a cheap option, I’m afraid.

      • I can hardly believe I’m contemplating this, but it’s nice to hear you’ve heard good things as well. Incentive to keep the grass mown wouldn’t be a bad thing. I found a 100′ kit for $50 I think I will try. And it’s supposed to be super easy to install (35 min???) I’ll let you know…

  6. If there is a fence vetween front and back- i like the idea to make it higher. Another thing you could try is treat stations- healthy treats or you might get chubby chickens. I hope those ladies stay safe! Good luck! 😄

    • Thank you! The more I evaluate it, the more I think raising the height of the fences / gates all around would be really complicated. And I’m pretty sure they’re getting through the wire fence in the bushes somewhere, not over it. So now I’m leaning toward a simple low-voltage electric fence around their coop and most of the yard (although I dread witnessing their first shocks). This would have the added benefits of keeping the raccoons away from them, and keeping them off the patio, for which my husband will lavish me with gifts, I’m sure.

  7. I second the idea of floppy chicken wire on the fence at an angle. Ours kept finding inventive ways to get out but as soon as we put up chicken wire all escapades stopped. :p

    • Thanks! We do have wire under the hedges, but it probably needs to be re-inforced. I’ve hesitated to do this in the past, because they sometimes have escaped raccoons through there. But I will re-evaluate if the electric fence idea doesn’t work. Hopefully that will take care of the raccoon issue as well.

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