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