Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Growing Flock

There is currently a poultry turf war going on in our backyard; last night we added two new chickens to our flock. We found out recently that a friend of a friend sells pullets and layers at a good price ($15 each), and we had been thinking for awhile that we wanted to get a couple more and potentially get a small business going to sell eggs, so we decided to go for it. Meet Mimi, a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte:
 (Click on Photos to Enlarge)
 We think she is just slightly younger than our original four.

And Vivian, a 2-year-old Ameraucana, giver of lovely blue-green eggs:

She'll be off the lay for a little while after this transition, but we'll be getting eggs sooner than we thought! Isn't she gorgeous? They are both beautiful, and round out the color palette of our flock very nicely!

The transition has been, well, interesting. There's always a certain amount of beatdown that happens as a pecking order is established, and we weren't sure how well our flock would deal with the change. Matt brought the newbies home at dusk last night, and we stuck them straight into the henhouse after dark while the others were already roosting. Chickens are immobilized by the dark, so none of them could really do anything and we figured it was the least traumatic way to introduce them to each other. We were awoken this morning by BWOK BWOK BWOK BWOK Bwooooooooooooook! As the original gang discovered intruders in their midst, and the new duo realized that they were surrounded by unknown chickens and in an unknown place.

When we went out to see how things were going, the original four chickens were happily clucking around the coop, and Mimi and Vivian had barricaded themselves safely in the henhouse, blocking up the door with straw:
Oh dear. 

Looking into the henhouse, we couldn't see Mimi at first, and finally discovered that she had buried herself in the straw, maybe the chicken version of a security blanket? Vivian was fairly calm, but it looked as though little Mimi had taken a bit of abuse from the others. We let Lady M, Esther, Penny and Goldie out into the yard and then kicked Mimi and Vivian out into the coop to get used to the space. Vivian was very sedate and immediately found the food and started gobbling it down, while Mimi freaked out, racing back and forth against the wire, sticking her head through and trying to escape. She was clearly distressed, and I was very distressed for her, so we let her out (I was afraid she would break her neck, wrenching it against the wire). Once she was out and about, she completely calmed down, tried to follow the others, got several tail feathers pecked out by the others, then found a quiet corner of the yard and began to scratch around. Whenever she came near the old gang, she got chased or pecked, so I think it's slowly being established that she is at the bottom of the heap. 

Vivian, at two years old, can actually fly, and with relatively low fences around our yard and a number of ways in which a flying bird can escape from it, we had to clip one of her wings before we could let her out to free range:

It makes me sad, but it doesn't hurt her and it will help keep her safe, especially from the dogs next door. 

While Mimi is now apparently the runt of the flock, Vivian is bigger and older and apparently has some form of chicken street cred that the original four don't question at all; they never once tried to boss her around; she is just sedate and calm and walks right among them without being challenged. And of course Mimi and Vivian are used to each other, so at least the wee one has an ally. 
With six chickens out and about, we decided to try a trick we heard for protecting our garden from marauding poultry. Matt had read that if you string up VHS tape, the flickering light and noise it gives off scare away birds. Videos are about 25 cents at a thrift store, so we brought one home and Matt strung it along the fence between the backyard and the garden; now we'll have to see if it works, as our chickens are testing out their wings more and more every day.
What movie have we "decorated" our garden with? Twister.

When I put all the chickens back in the coop this evening, Mimi got freaked out again and tried sticking her head through the wire like she did this morning, and got jumped by Penny and Esther a few times, but that actually seems to have helped; as they make their peace with each other and learn their respective places on the chicken totem pole, they'll adjust and hopefully soon be a cohesive flock again. It's definitely trying, and hard to watch our beloved birds rumble in our once peaceable backyard, but they'll figure it out.

1 comment:

FlowerLady said...

What a neat and interesting post. Poor little Mimi, I sure hope they accept her soon. At least Vivian is strutting her stuff and the original girls are not intimidating her.

May your little flock and homestead soon be peaceful once again.