"A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes."
If there is one thing you can say about expectations, it is that they are always, without fail, met. With what they are met, now that is what makes the story interesting, or perplexing, and sometimes even frustrating.
This can certainly, perhaps even especially, be said of expectations relating to co-habitation with animals.
Let me preface all of this by saying that I realize, of course, that a chicken is a chicken....
and a human is a human.
You can read all of the books you want, then want all the things you want based on what you have read, but at the end of the day there is nothing like experience.
We really didn't know for sure what our 17 hens would want with respect to space. I built a reasonably sized coop (about twice the advised minimum for them at maturity) on the edge of the drive last fall, with bumped out nesting boxes (more for us than them).
There is room for at least ten more on the pine branch roosts, though floor space would get tight during feeding time in the winter.
I built the coop on 4x4 "sleds" so that I could move it to its permanent location. The info I read & based the coop design on, I must say, was spot on.
In the summer they would free range all day, and only use the coop for eating/drinking, afternoon naps, and nighttime.
With a ratio of 3.4 hens/acre, there would be plenty of room for them to explore.
Our extensive landscape plantings, and more importantly, 1.5 acres of vegetable ground, were always a concern, but I thought we could work it out.
Unfortunately, chickens prefer the same light, fertile soil as plants, only for their dirt baths, and its inhabitants (earthworms and grubs) for their snacks.
It was not a worst case scenario...yet. The annual mulching has not been done, and hardly a thing has been planted outside our first spring plot, which is protected with chicken wire. It has been effective, for the most part, so far.
It has become increasingly apparent that our optimistic expectations about free range hens were not spot on. Even though it may not always be obvious to the eye, depending on what project we are in the middle of, I do like to have things in their place, from tools and materials (like mulch) to plants, desirable and less desirable, and it now appears, hens.
with all this in mind, and knowing that good fences may very well make good neighbors,
our ladies now have slightly less range.
I did try to give them a mountain range, made of composted mulch and dead grass plumes, for climbing, dirt bathing, and digging for bugs.
Further testing is sure to come, but at this point, the plan (expectation?) is to add two more runs, so we can rotate them around, as I assume (expect?) that this grass will soon be gone.
We just saw a video where a woman let her birds free range for just an hour or two before dusk. Maybe this solution will work for us.
I will try and keep my expectations to a minimum.