Since chickens are renown for their scratching prowess, if left to themselves, they will destroy the months of toil my husband and I have spent creating our cottage garden, so the girls will not be free range chickens. However, we may give them supervised outings in the evenings before bed time, in the future. I think that by elevating their hen house on stilts, rather than setting it on the ground, it will give them more real estate to roam and do what chickens do - scratch the earth in search of a meal. This design will also shade them from the SoCal sun, and make it easier on our backs to clean the coop and gather their eggs as well. I will provide photos of the building process of the larger coop- well - at least I hope to remember to document it with photos anyway, and I've been told by the folks at TUFF SHED that their installation guys aren't camera shy.
I have done some research on which breeds of hens to purchase. There are many things to consider when making this serious commitment to raising poultry, things like: a breed's temperament, egg laying ability, utility of being egg layers, or meat birds, and their weather hardiness, only to name a few. This has not been an easy task, as there is much conflicting information out there regarding the characteristics of each breed. At first I wanted to make sure that the birds I purchase were heritage birds rather than production bred birds; those that were bred to sit in little cages and pump out eggs. Then I saw a video made by a chicken farmer and he said that production birds are better suited for being "cooped up", while heritage breeds are better suited for
free ranging. Heritage breeds are also better at foraging and are not as easy to catch as they are more weary of predators. Now that I am thoroughly confused, I guess I will just get what I want and see what happens. As I understand it, the more time you spend with them, the more apt they are to be more social. I also have decided to keep a mixed flock, meaning I will have more than one breed of chicken, so I hope this will keep things interesting, and allow us to tell one chicken from the other. Below I have listed my breed choices with their names, which may change by the time I actually get them. Since they will be residing in our backyard with the cottage garden, for now, I figured I should give them flora and fauna names. I can't wait!