The itty bitties are about a week shy of two months now. We turned them loose in the yard at around 5-6 weeks and they have been on cloud nine ever since. We could tell they really really really wanted to run around, and while I worried all day for their safety, and they did have to deal with a few obstacles, they did just fine on their own. But, boy I was a wreck that first day. Here's a few pics of what their first few days free ranging were like.
First off, the pup felt it was his duty to follow them around all day. All day. He made a complete pest of himself. Even chasing them at times. We could tell he was herding them, but we could also tell he really really wanted to play.
But they wanted to eat.
Chase me chase me chaaaaaasssse me!
The pup means well, and he really has fallen in love with these baby gals...but he was relentless in his patrol those first few days (and I'm happy to report after about a week he calmed down and now only wants their food).
He would even stop to see what they were eating. I found him munching on lettuce, leaves, grass, grapes...I swear he's going to start peeping soon.
Old Eggy, our big fat dude cat was very curious, but kept his distance. He's too old and lazy to care much for feathered things anymore. I do find him lying around with them in the yard from time to time. I think he finds them amusing. And our Eggy cat loves oatmeal...which is the chicks favorite treat. It wouldn't surprise me to see them sharing a bowl one morning. Our younger cat, Strawberry, well, she was a different story. She had to be sprayed with the hose a few times for stalking these poor chicks while licking her lips. I watched her like a hawk the first few days, and while she did lunge for them on more than one occasion, she quickly learned the chicks were not only fast, but had sharp beaks they weren't afraid to use. Now she watches from a distance and seems more or less indifferent. Whew! Good grief, Mama needs a drink.
Pleeeeeeeeease play with me. Pleeeeeeeease, Sweet Lily.
The ducks, as you can see, held their own as well. When they have seven chickens in their personal space, well, let's just say they too have beaks (beaks, bills, whatever) they are also not afraid to use. The older hens and the ducks definitely established their pecking order those first few days. And while I can't say it will stay the same (two of the baby chicks are quite rebellious and don't back down when pecked at), everyone does seem to respect each other's space and boundaries. The ducks peck at the hens, the hens peck at the ducks, they all peck at the babies...it's game on when food is involved. And God forbid should one of them find a worm. That starts a whole new game of "She's got a worm, she's got a worm! Get the girl with the worm!" More often than not, it's ripped out of the finder's mouth before she can say "Uncle!"
I think they secretly love to play chase, though. They seem to have so much fun running around all over the yard constantly searching for bugs and worms and grain and grass. They always stay together, and seem to look out for each other. As soon as I walk into the yard they all come running up to say hi. OK, fine, they run up to see if I have food, but in my mind they say hi.
did I mention they like to eat?
ooooooohhh grapes! Open open open...we need to eat!
They aren't just chickens to us, they're silly, funny, sweet, loving, peaceful, pretty, curious, goofy little pals. They are worthy of compassion. And we are thankful for the opportunity to give it.