In my ever increasing search to gain experience in photographing all types of livestock I visited a small, backyard poultry farm specializing in free range eggs. There a small mixed flock of laying hens, joined by four roosters, lived in relatively free range. The owner had fenced in an area of an acre or so and added two open front large coops as well as waters and other fixtures needed for happy chicken life.
Having learned my lesson in backgrounds I looked around and spotted the perfect area. On the other side of the fence where the coops were was a field of wheat. The coops were about fifteen feet apart. I figured that if I got down low, to chicken height so to speak, and shot fairly wide open, then the fence would be just a soft haze against the wheat.
Problem is, you can’t pose a chicken and still have him or her look natural and free range. The solution came when the owner said she hadn’t fed them yet, which explained their crowding the coops clamoring to be given their food. I asked her to hold off on doing their regular feeding but instead to scatter some grain in the area between the coops. That almost convinced the chickens to more or less stay in the area I wanted them in.
I say almost because there still those who had to leave and see if there was food scattered anywhere else. And chickens are fast. Even as they fed they more resembled a roadrunner than a hen scratching in the dust of a barnyard. My first attempts earned me photos of fast moving chickens. Flawed in both focus and composition. Not the kind of image that would attract paying, or even non paying clients.
But then the sun grew too warm, I had been there an hour or so at this point, and the chickens decided to seek the shade. That left my best images to be taken there. I’ve watched folks herd cats. I even have herded a few myself. But for sheer frustration nothing beats photographing chickens.