Friday, August 7, 2009

Letting Snoods Lead

This morning I got a few close-ups of the turkeys. The thing dangling from above their beaks is called a snood, and the skin on their face is known as carunculated skin. Eli, the guy from whom I recently learned to process chickens, told me that you can make a turkey go wherever you want if you lead them by the snood.

But sometimes the snoods lead you. After finally completing the first chicken "tractor" - more aptly thought of as a RV, for all you do is lug it around to sleep in - the turkeys soon inspected the structure and decided it was better than the brooder house they'd outgrown. Of course, this was not according to my plan. I'd built the thing for the chickens, which I'd hoped to move out of the barn so as to put the turkeys in their place. After getting everything ready for the transfer - including the harmonica for a parade to the new enclosure and Jen ready with camera in hand - the chickens followed me just beyond the line of their old enclosure where they promptly dispersed into the grass, lost in the confusions of too much freedom.
What happened in the days following was classic farm folly. After having thought out all the possible angles on the fencing and tractors, I hadn't given much thought to the problem of actually moving the animals. How do you move 150 chickens to a place they've never gone? Herding chickens, it turns out, is a lot like herding cats.

The chickens are still loose, often not going much further than their old enclosure lines. I'm feeding them further and further out of that area and into the pasture so they'll get used to eating there, and will move them sometime next week after we get the rest of the tractors built. I continue to find that letting the animals lead me is most instructive.

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