For some reason, one of our chicken tractors (we have two, each with 53 birds) became a very tough neighborhood. One day last week we lost a chicken who was pecked to death by a gang of peers. A few days two more were killed and Cadence rescued two in the nick of time who had been attacked, but not fatally.
Sara and Cadence mulled over the options and decided to let the chickens in that tractor loose to be totally free-range birds. Then, a pecked-on chicken would have a better chance of escaping his attackers. There would be a greater risk of losing a few to predators but that wouldn't be as bad as losing them to cannibalism It will be an interesting experiment to see which birds grow faster and fare better--those in the other chicken tractor or the totally free-range chickens.
The minute the chickens were let out, our older dog Nutmeg raced into the pasture and plopped down among them. She has turned into an amazing farm dog who takes her duty of watching over the chickens very seriously - even though she appears to be lying down on the job in this photo. Toward evening I went out to see how the chickens were doing and they had all settled in under the tree that fell over into our pasture during the big wind. Great chicken shelter! We needed an excuse to leave that tree there a while.