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But, Mom, I Didn't WANT a Baby Sister!"

For those of you playing along at home, 12 new hens arrived on Monday. "Hen" being a relative term indicating their purpose in life at a later date. These are young girls somewhere around E's age in terms of development. Like, they haven't a clue what their purpose is.

The thought was that if the girls were young enough, the remaining 7 would mother them, teach them what to do. My conclusion is that chickens don't do that. They just aren't wired for parenting, at least the way these were bred. Their behavior more resembles that of an older sibling who used to be an only child presented with the arrival of a baby sister. Lots of baby sisters.


We've had the original flock for 2 years now and they're highly domesticated. I'd forgotten just how dumb your average chicken is. The first night, the Dude had to toss these new girls into the coop at dusk. They were huddled in a mass, having been driven out of the coop by the big girls. They spent the night on the floor. The Dude spent weeks tossing chickens into the coop two years ago until we left the light on and they went in by themselves, what a concept. Open hatch in the morning, close hatch at night. Easy. And here we are, tossing chickens again. It's like forgetting what changing diapers was like.

The good news is that by night three, most of them have figured out to go into the coop. Some are even getting up on the roost, but they need to stay at least two rungs down or the big girls peck at them. The big girls do that just because. They chase them, peck them, and generally put them in their place. Which can lead to problems, the book says. Better to get rid of the old flock completely, the book says.

GET RID OF WALKABOUT AND GIMPY?????

I can see getting rid of a couple of featherless bipeds...

The girls will just have to learn to get along. So I'm free-ranging the big girls for part of the day, after I think they've laid the 2 eggs a day they've been producing lately (2 eggs per week per old girl). I need my fresh eggs in the morning. None of the older girls seems to have stopped laying completely, their legs are all still white. Meanwhile, the little ones are learning how to sit on a roost and stay huddled together. We have food and water both inside and outside the coop, so that shouldn't be an issue. It won't be long before the new girls are as big as the old ones. I've already watched one insert herself into the old flock and go beak to beak with one of them, stretching herself as tall as she could. They stood motionless for about 30 seconds and then moved on. My girls understand intimidation.

There's no question of who's who. The old girls run to the fence if you come down to the run. The new girls run away from us. They haven't figured out where the treats come from, what bread is, what fruit is, what a dead mouse is. There's plenty of time on that last one.

G has improved the run. It's bigger now and the size is permanent to avoid another Walkabout situation. He's also done some work along the base of the barn to discourage my buddy the woodchuck. He's back and flipping the lid off the soy again. Which is fine. It was his forays into the run that I objected to because it left holes large enough for a predator to enter.

The new girls are totally freaked by the cats. The old girls ignore the cats.
G's run expansion...




Woodchuck proofing...still in progress at this point




Arrival...what the heck is going on?


E and G discuss the logistics of opening the gate without the old girls getting out


first girl out


G had to lift them all out


Keep an eye on this one, she got out by herself


the old guard is suspicious


well, not all of them. Walkabout is supremely unimpressed


New hens have yellow legs until they've started laying. The yellow pigment goes into the eggs and layers have white legs eventually. Other parts turn white as well, but here it's especially evident as a new girl shows off her pretty legs.


and here is a comparison photo to the old guard for size and leg color

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Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
kelly_yoyo
Mar. 20th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Wow, 12 new family members! How long before they start laying?

The yellow legs are very pretty -- interesting trivia, that.
birdhousefrog
Mar. 20th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
supposedly it's in several places, this yellow pigment. They lose it from the legs and bottoms of the feet last. And it comes back if they stop laying. It's so pretty. And they don't have their combs yet, either. They're alert and fluffy and scatter-brained.

They won't lay for up to 2 months. Last time it was about six weeks. They laid their first egg just before we left for Disney World in May 2 years ago. I'm hoping they lay long before that. We have customers lined up and waiting!
tcastleb
Mar. 20th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Cool. I like all the info about the chickens, and I was wondering about the new ones.
birdhousefrog
Mar. 20th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
and here they are! Now if they'll just figure out what their job is and if the older ones don't kill them first, we'll be all set.
mindseas
Mar. 20th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
My mother used to have banty hens that would adopt chicks, but that's chicks as in newly-hatched, downy things.

I'm sure your new girls will catch on fine and make their way up the pecking order in time.
birdhousefrog
Mar. 20th, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
Their reaction to these young hens was VERY different from their reaction to the goose. The goose sent them into a tizzy, remember? This time they're bigger than the intruders and chasing them around. It's sort of like a hazing ritual...as long as no one gets hurt (which can happen), I'll be happy.

(Anonymous)
Mar. 21st, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
Visit
Hej Isabel and Jason.
Would you like us to pay you a visit in August this year?
We would like to see your farm.
Love Sanne
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )