Agatha’s (Mis)Adventure

I had the perfect composting system in the Gem’s run. There were two bins made out of wood pallets. I put garden and kitchen waste, and used goat bedding in one, and when that filled up I switched to the other. Meanwhile, the chickens scratched and turned the piles, shredded all the material into tiny bits, and added manure. After a year of letting it rest, I shovel out gorgeous, loose, rich compost, which is perfect for the garden.

I’ve had this set up for several years. I never had a problem with it when the old girls lived in the barn (these are the hens you now see on the HenCam.) Then the Gems moved into this barn, and they took right to their compost duty of turning and scratching. But, two days ago, I had to dismantle one of the bins. It’s Agatha’s fault.

Agatha saw the bins’ potential- as a launching pad. Despite the twine criss-crossed over the run to keep the hawks out, and despite the fact that she’s a heavy Speckled Sussex who is decidedly not aerodynamic, Agatha flapped her way here:

The other chickens were astounded, but remained on the ground, that is until Onyx leapt up to join the instigator.

Doesn’t Agatha look pleased with her new vantage point?

Obviously, despite their glee, this is not a good idea. The fence keeps them safe. They’re about to launch themselves further afield into a yard with dogs and hawks, fox and coyote. I had to get them back into their pen.

Agatha thought about stepping down onto my arm, but even standing on a stool, I was too far off.

I was just able to reach up to poke their chests and push them back into their run. Their landing wasn’t exactly elegant, but it didn’t hurt, either.

Now, there’s just one compost bin in the run. I’m putting more string up, too. If bulky, awkward Agatha can get out, a hawk can fly in.

They’re safe. For now. But who knows what Agatha will think up next?


  1. Boy, that Agatha sure is something! This is probably just the beginning of her antics…she seems like the feisty one

  2. and people think chickens are dumb. I know she’s doing something you don’t want her to but it’s kind of hard not to be proud of her for figuring something out no one else could :)

  3. Agatha is so beautiful! who can blame her for wanting to get out and explore!

  4. My 22 week old hens were also so inclined. A short piece of chicken wire on top of the area stopped it. But why is it that the girls can always find a way out, but never the way back in?

  5. I see Agatha has a ankle bracelet on. What is it for? I also have hens and they are pretty agile also. I have one that loves to fly into an apple tree in their pen. She hasn’t figured it out yet that it is only a foot to get over the fence.

    • The blue band is a way for me to tell the hens apart from a distance. You’ll notice that some of the other birds have identifiers on as well. It helps with birds with similar plumage.

  6. LOL!! I know it’s not at all funny what could happen, but, still!! Just have to admire that spirit of adventure and curiosity. Reminds me of some cats I have known. In particular an Abyssinian named Lucifur who thought his mission in life was to see the world.

  7. Isn’t she a clever girl? My oldest hens have never flown, not once. My “yearlings” are jet pilots. My young ones from this year haven’t flown either. I don’t know why the differences.
    Agatha is so pretty.

  8. OMGosh —- in the first pic, she looks like a hawk up there. Look at the girls milling about below saying, ‘what the heck????….”
    So funny…..adventures in chicken keeping!!!!
    Your post continue to make us smile!

  9. My Phyllis, an Ameraucana/Easter Egger, is always trying to find new ways into places I don’t want the chickens. Yesterday I found her in my herb garden. She seemed to know she isn’t allow there and I watched how she got out. She had burrowed under some chicken wire at the base of the deck. She’s always flying up onto anything higher, even after I clipped a wing. I double checked the drawing in Storey’s and I clipped just like they said, but she’s still able to fly. I have an ugly mishmash of chicken wire and bird netting trying to keep her out of the vegetable garden, so far so good, but I’ve seen her trying to figure out a way around that.

  10. Terry, she is just making her debut. She is going to be a star for sure !!!!

  11. She looks so pleased with herself! Too bad she has to go back in. My littlest one, a barred rock who is a month younger than yours, met me outside her run when I came home from work the other day. She was waiting impatiently and telling me all about it, and went in immediately when I opened the gate. She seemed to know where the gate is even though she’s never herself gone out of of it, and in an electric mesh fence one spot looks much like the others. Unlike you I missed the entire event and have no idea where she launched from. I do know those fences are necessary, having lost a number to dogs in my free range days. I’m sorry you had to dismantle your great bin system! I am just now thinking of pulling my wire hoop bins outside of the run in case that is how Nob got out.

  12. Certainly sounds like a new book to me. Agatha is going to give you lots of material. It seems like this is only the beginning.
    She definitely has lots of personality all ready.
    It’s about time for a new chicken book – don’t you think?

    • I do think! My agent is shopping two around. It is SO hard to get published, even for an author with a good track record, like me.

      • I know published authors don’t usually do this, but what about those digital “print on demand” services? I bet you’d sell a bunch off the hencam site!

  13. Our pullets (1 Ancona, 1 Ameraucana and 3 Marans)are about the same age as yours. They, with their gentleman friend Mr. C, were moved in with my 4+ year old hens and their gentlemen friends, Prince Orpington and Prince Delaware, about 2 or 3 weeks ago. Everyone seems to be getting along pretty well so far and the eggs are mostly in the nests where they belong. The one catch was that I kept finding one of the Marans outside the run, a serious danger since my otherwise wonderful Border Collie (Ms. Maddy) has a record of dispatching poultry that roam. Recently I was lucky enough to catch her up on top of the small pen (it has a “roof” of plastic snow fence). I picked her up, pulled out the crash scissors that I find indispensable, and cut off the bulk of her right wing feathers (leaving stubs). No more roaming pullet although her name is now Amelia.

  14. Terry, what about birds other than hawks getting in your chicken pen? (I’ve noticed them inside the chick barn, at the feeders.) I’ve been led to believe that the songbirds (sparrows, finches, etc.) which populate my property can spread diseases like avian flu to my chickens (to say nothing of robbing the feeders), so I have miles of netting strung up everywhere. I would be much happier just stringing up twine, but then the little birds take over. What do you think about bird-borne diseases?

    • Wild birds can bring in disease, including respiratory and parasites like mites. It’s one of the reasons why the huge commercial farms say they have to have closed barns. But, that’s an extreme response. There’s risks everywhere. Minimize what you can, while maintaining sanity and quality of life. The balance for me is that the hens get to free-range (when I’m watching) and they outside pens and open window. This lets in little birds, but I’m willing to risk that. Keeping the area clean, the feeding areas tidy, the ground raked and mud to a minimum really reduces the risk.

  15. Hello, My brothers 7year old bantam still jumps over the fence. She is really agile.

  16. i heard one of the gems layed an egg witch one…yayyay for the gems!! congrats: )

  17. I like how Onyx followed her lead! I love the wood pallets that you use for your compost bins–clever way to re-purpose :)