They race out of the door, flapping and flustering over themselves and each other, straight into the patch of green alongside the coop. Heads go straight down, fluffy feathered bottoms now sticking straight up. It's a feeding and scratching frenzy.
I get to my work with the mulch in the adjacent section of the garden, while my son promises an eye on the chooks from his reading spot on the grass. It's only the second or third time they've been out exploring, so we're not too sure they'll stay where they should. For now, though, we are all content in our work alongside one another in the glorious afternoon sun.
I look around to see they've all jumped down to the mulch level now, and are furiously scratching away alongside the fence. The routine is sound - fast and furious scratching, then lightening fast pecks, scratch again, peck peck peck. Mulch is flying out behind them as they fling it in claw-fuls, now digging into the buried dirt below and leaving a decent hole. So focused are they that the dog next door, going wild on the other side of the fence, causes no distraction at all for them. It is a feast that calls the local magpies attention, as they hang around hoping for some scraps.
We needn't have worried about them trying to escape, so busy are they in their work, but I do move them on before they dig right under the fence. Alongside a retaining wall, they get right back to work, finding yet more tasty treasure in the form of roly-poly bugs. At one point, a chook races away from her sisters, a worm dangling from her beak, unwilling to share her prize. She drops and gulps this delicacy in one flawless movement, no chance of being robbed. And back to it they all go, up and down, scratch and munch. A symphony of buk-buk-buuuuk clucks and cackles drift across the garden as they delight in this new smorgasbord.
As the sun begins to slide down for the night, we coax the chooks home to roost and compliment them on their dedication, their great company. As we close the gate, a long, low cluck seems to signal them signing off, job well done.