Tag Archives: integration

Romeo’s first day

Chris started his day with fights.  The Silkie roosters took him on one at a time, from the top of the pecking order down.

While he was distracted, another one chased Cream Puff and grabbed her by the tail.  Hugely indignant, she escaped to the top of the coop, all ruffled up, to watch the fights.This was crazy!  I was like, what are you thinking!!?  This little rooster taking on the giant is like when your unsporty desk job friend has a few drinks and wants to fight the bouncer.  I carn take ‘im!  And everyone, including the bouncer, is like Just get ’em out of here.  Pls.

Chris is really a very nice rooster and didn’t go picking any fights.  He just finished the ones that picked him.

That’s my man.

But the Silkie roosters are little scrappers with no sense of their own size, or maybe just no sense, period.   They are quick, I float like a butterfly!  but there was no real contest.  It didn’t last long.

Chris conquered them by literally stepping on them.  He’d get them pinned and just stand on them with one foot until they squirmed out and ran behind a bush.  One by one, each fight faster, finished with all the little roos behind the bush, crowing.  Well – I’m just gonna yell, from over here!  And that was that.The last one didn’t even engage.  Oh, I was just leaving.  Nope!  I didn’t say anything!  Didn’t say nothing at all! That bush over there looks real good all of a sudden.   Then, the social order disrupted, the little roos had to fight each other to sort themselves out again. Then there was peace, and Chris and Cream Puff installed themselves at the far end of the greenhouse, just like I hoped.

Now Chris rules Walnut Tree Land and Philippe, Pine Tree Land, at the opposite ends of the GH.  At the end of the day, they met at the side of the garden, but it was indecisive, since I broke them up.  I wanted them to go to bed so I could close coops.

I don’t know who won between Chris and the Colonel, midday.  The Colonel was bloody but looked smug, and there were feathers lost on both sides.

Scruffle central

When the new boys got released and wandered out of their corner, they met the roosters who already lived in the greenhouse. Cue the battles You’d be forgiven for thinking that rooster fights are actually high jump contests.

Nice one.
Watch this.

Back to staring for a while… A victor is emerging. They’re both tired.  Panting.

I’ll ballet on you, fiend!
Your frilled-necked lizard impression isn’t fooling me!
I’ll WWE you, interloper!

The interloper is now having second thoughts.

Ding ding ding!  Now for the next match…

chicken house immigrants

When I was driving to go get the new Silkies, I was thinking many things along the lines of “What am I doing?” But then I got there and it was not a good situation for chickens, so it all made sense, and I took all the birds I could away, glad I could liberate some.

The next morning, I opened the ramp on the new flock to the first real dirt and sunlight, and more space than they’d ever had, and…nothing.  No one budged.This pretty little Silver hen was set to be first out, probably just  because she slept by  the door.When I opened up, she immediately started doing owl impressions, swiveling her head around to look at everything.She was especially interested in looking up.  She’s never seen so much up.   Perhaps they’ve never seen sunlight. She was taking her sweet time about assessment, so I left her to it and did something else.

20 minutes later:Oh!  She’s dipping a toe in! A whole foot!Two feet! And a roo peeking out behind. This whole procedure to get to this point took another twenty minutes (she’s going to have a sore neck), so I left her to inch down the ramp on her own.  No one was exactly pushing past her to be the first.An hour later. Finally, landed! The brahmas spectating at the viewing window.

Another hour later:Half the birds are still in the box, but the ones out have polished off their food, knocked over the waterer, and are SO into scratching.  I’ve never seen scratching with such enthusiastic abandon. I expected some wild, weird, bad behaviour from the crazed refugee chickens, but they seem pretty… normal.  Sweet, mild.  Peripherally vision challenged.  Harriet Potter has found her happy place.The roosters sizing each other up.  That’s exactly what the viewing window is for.  Controlled contact.

Hen homies

I have the most thoroughly integrated flock of hens I’ve ever had, to date.  They hang together, closely.  I fact, I rarely count them anymore, because I’ll see them as a group, in at most two not very distant packs, and know they’re all there.  No more outliers or lone wolves (I know, I know- inapt).

They have friendships and preferences; two or three will roll side by side and, say, stay out to the very last minute, or linger under the birdfeeder together, while other girls lurk on the dog’s bones, but all of them are never very far apart, and usually surprisingly close together.

This is odd because the current layers are from three sources.  The “old original hens” – the wise old survivors that grew up free-rangin’, yo, the “co-op hens” – unfortunate clipped beaks, and no survival skills at all, and the “leftover hens” from the neighbour, the arrival of whom seemed to catalyze the new familial cohesion.

I can tell the birds of various provenance apart easily.  The old birds are looking dull, and the leftovers are the darkest.

Why are they so tight all of a sudden?

I wish I knew.  They just like each other more now?

As long as they’re happy.

New chickens

With all the young hens around him these days, the rooster reminds me of an aging rock star with a bunch of groupies.

I added a handful of pullets in November.   Now this year’s additions outnumber the old originals.

Naturally, they chose their own methods of integrating with the flock.

I moved them in at night, gave them a sawhorse to perch on, and carefully strung up  a canvas barrier, so that they could spend a day of two learning that they live in the greenhouse now.

Right.  The moment that I released the hens in the morning, flap flap flap!  One of the new additions burst right over the canvas and rushed right into the middle of the others.  Scratching like she’d always been there, she was instantly indistinguishable from the other pullets.

Just great.  Now when I open up the greenhouse, she’s not going to have any idea where she is or how to get back.  Sure enough, a few minutes after all the hens file out and down the path the usual direction, there’s the one hen wandering in the grass, cooing querulously.  At least now I know which one she is.

I started to chase her; herding working as well as it usually does.  She had that natural chicken talent of plunging off into something dense at the last minute before going where you want her to.  So I chased her, and she got more and more agitated, and louder, and finally, she was screaming and flapping away from me hot on her henny heels, and… finally, the rooster got involved.

He started making pronouncements and she started veering towards his voice and all the other hens squawking in sympathetic anxiety.  Roo to the rescue; he came running, pounced on her, mated her, and that was that.  She belonged to the flock, and she was by the rooster’s side all day (I learned to recognize her by the colour of her legs).

The other new hens were not quite so bold, and deferred to my plan for them for a whole day.  After a day of looking cornered and anxious, they flew over the barrier too, and came back to the greenhouse at night perfectly.

New hens-integration

Well, the new hens have been here two weeks.  They are not treated very well by the old hens, who seem hugely irritated with them, and outcompete them for food.  So, we scatter food all over, and give the young hens more food in the afternoon after the big ones have sailed off to forage outdoors.

I was hoping for the rooster to adopt them and take care of them a bit better, but after great initial attraction, he has decided his old girlfriends hold his interest better.

IMGP0280
At least they have each other.

They sit forlornly under the coop, like they don’t know what else to do.  I don’t know if they’ve never been outside before. They have cute, skinny profiles, with perky upright tails.  Sadly, their beaks are clipped, so they look damaged, injured.

These new chickens are like little waifs, with no life skills.  They are bad at scratching and foraging.  They are bad at leaving the greenhouse.

They very quickly mastered trailing around after me and whining. They are great at flying, perhaps because they aren’t big Zeppelins yet.

They are especially bad at sleeping.IMGP0240On the first night, as we expected to have to do, we collected them from all over the greenhouse, and put them in the coop.  One of them left a little muddy egg behind.

I divided the coop with some hardware cloth so they could have a safe section, but begin to learn that they live in the coop, and the old birds could suck it up and deal.

In the morning, I went and released them, and then prodded them out and down the ramp.

IMGP0266The next night, strewn around the greenhouse again.

The third night, I took the barrier out of the coop, and wow!  One of the new hens went to bed by herself!

IMGP0238She’s roosted up in the corner that had been fenced off, and the old hens are all grouped up on their side in disgust.

The other new hens got a bit more creative.  They were still piled up on the Tupperware lid, usually four of them there, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find MJ.  Finally I went looking on the Silkie side, and found this:

IMGP0242What the heck?  I wasn’t even sure what was going on here at first, but

IMGP0244
I’m cozy here.

she was jammed between the feed sack and the plastic.

Tired of getting scooped up from the ground, or else having the concept of roosting take hold a tiny bit, they started to take to the air.

IMGP0271
I about died laughing at this. Seriously? You’re comfortable there?

I don’t know how she managed it, but she was perched up on the divider fabric, sound asleep.  It must have swung wildly when she first landed on it.

A few more started to get into the coop at night, but there were two persistent Tupperware sleepers who insisted on roosting on the lid, for days.  It was a big night when there was only one holdout sleeping on the lid.

Meanwhile, other birds got closer to the coop.

Are we doing it right?

We're on the coop!
We’re on the coop!

No, in the coop, in… two or three on the coop, night after night.

IMGP0267How about now?

IMGP0275

Finally!  OMG, all in the coop! (the old hens are still disgusted).