No More Babies

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The house is quiet tonight for the first time since late February. At six weeks old, the nuggets are spending their first night outdoors locked up tightly in a pet carrier-turned mini-coop. They’ve already been spending their entire days outside for the past week (after a week or so of partial days) and with night temperatures in the 50’s–the time has come.

While they are not grown up by any means, if they were being raised by a mama hen, she’d likely be done doing maternal duties and they’d be turned out into the flock to fend for themselves. We are NOT turning ours into the big flock any time soon since that flock is still working out the blending kinks with the nearly twelve week-old teens!

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The teens spend the days in the large run with the old gals–they’re learning how to make their way while getting out of the way when the mean girls come pecking. At night, they roost in the little house that has been theirs for a couple months now. They are starting to spread out a bit and actually roost on the roosting bars during the night instead of piling into a cozy heap in one of the nesting boxes. With four pullets (females) and one cockerel, there is safety in numbers. We’ve told Sprocket that until he starts crowing, as far as we’re concerned, he’s just one of the gals. Our last Ameraucana roo started crowing around 14 weeks, so maybe we have a couple more weeks before Sprocket has to go.

 

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And, speaking of cockerels…we’re pretty sure this little bantam Mottled Cochin is a male as well. He’s got quite the long-necked strut and his little comb is just as red as can be. He flits around trying to tell the other two what to do and we’ve taken to calling Daisy, “Dudley”!

 

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The three nuggets love their makeshift run we’ve created out of chicken wire right next to the big gals coop and while they are separate and safe, we want them to get used to each other’s presence. The nuggets had no trouble figuring out that the new little cage in their romper land was where they should be when the sun set; they hopped in an out for a little while and then in they went just about the time the older hens were getting settled in their roosts.

It always amazes us how they all just sort of figure out how to be chickens and all we need to do is try to give them what they need at each developmental stage.  So, as the full moon rises over Raggedy Hen Farm, our baby chick raising days are just about done for this year. Now we can turn our nurturing attention to the garden!

The Blended Flockley

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The time has come…to take the final steps to blend our old gals with the “teenagers,” as we like to call them.  It’s been a process and we’ve attempted to take some care so that they could all get used to each other. The teens are really outgrowing their corner of the coop and they can all fly up into the tree branches and onto the top of their little house. The separation was getting somewhat insecure, anyway, so the time came to take down the temporary fencing, mediate the inevitable tussles, and see if the young and the old couldn’t find some intergenerational peace?

Chickens are not the slightest bit interested in living a life of cooperative consensus. There is a very definite hierarchy. We like to joke that it is pretty much exactly like working for a modern company, but, in fact, chickens are far better at being chickens then conforming to our human expectations of people-like behaviors. It took us a while to come to understand that and now we know that if we can provide for their needs, give them plenty of space, and appeal to what we call their “chicken-ness”–the chances are we can get this reorganized version of our flock behaving like a unit–it’s just going to take a while.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog, the two older hens at the bottom of the pecking order are the ones who are most interested in bullying the teens.  They have the most to gain and lose by the addition of the newbies.  If they can keep the teens below them, they will actually move up the line or get a promotion, if you will. There’s little chance that the top gals are going to be usurped, so they have no worries about the lanky teens bopping around the coop. Meanwhile, the teens do have to learn how the hierarchy works and where they fit into the flock. It isn’t always pretty and when we first started our chicken-keeping adventures, we were determined we could teach them to be sweet to each other, but we’ve learned and evolved and now, while we watch out for overly aggressive behaviors, we do let them work out their chicken world on their own.

The first day or so, post-fence, there were some chases, pecks, and flying feathers. The teens spent a fair amount of time sticking together in corners and moving out of the way when the big ones came near. We’ve been making sure there are plenty of feeders and waterers (currently two big feeders and four waterers for 10 chickens) and lots of healthy treats. We’ve been supervising the treat distribution to make sure everyone gets some of the corn, cabbage, rice, or whatever. We don’t know if there’s any science to it, but it seems to us that the more time they spend eating things they love as a group, the quicker they get used to each other and the less “scarcity” aggression acting out.

So, a few days have passed and the tussles are getting fewer and farther between. They are still sleeping in different coops but the teens are being allowed to roam more throughout the coop. They also still stick together for safety and support. We are letting them all out into the same chicken yard together in the morning  and crossing our fingers that reasonable peace will transpire throughout the day. Yes, the big gals are in charge. We’ve learned from experience that the teens probably won’t take their full places among the flock until they start laying, but it is always interesting to watch how the blending goes down. We’ve learned so much about chickens just by watching how they build and behave “in community.”

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Meanwhile, we keep our eyes on things and focus on keeping everyone healthy and safe–and giving them plenty of space to get used to each other while being able to get away if things get a bit heated. At 11 weeks, the teens are growing bigger by the day and will soon be able to hold their own with those plump, old hens!

Four Weeks Old and Counting

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Mini, Brownie, and Daisy enjoy a few hours each day–weather permitting–romping in the grass. They still need protection around the outside and over the top of their little “play pen” to keep them safe!

 

The Nuggets, as we refer to the three youngest chicks here at Raggedy Hen Farm, are four weeks old. It’s sort of a funny, uneven four weeks old and since this is our first time with the bantams, we’re not sure how fast or slow they are supposed to be growing! We’re feeling pretty confident that Brownie, the Easter Egger we also got as a day-old at the same time as the bantams, is a pullet (female), but we sure don’t know about the other two!

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Mini & Daisy-two little bantams!

 

Mini & Daisy are Teri’s two bantams and, let me tell you, that Mini is a tiny thing! We think Mini is likely a Welsummer bantam, Since all the bantams at the farm store were unsexed and sold as “mixed,” we get to practice our identification skills yet again as these chicks age. Daisy seems to be in no hurry to feather out and is still sporting a lot of baby fluff.  We are used to chicks being much more feathered by this age and her raggedy appearance reminds us a bit of Trudy, our Jersey Giant, who took a full 11 months to lay her first egg!

 

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Hmmm…what breed of chicken is this?!

 

Daisy has an interesting upright build; a long neck and black and white coloring. We think Daisy might be a Mottled Cochin bantam, but we’re just not sure! One thing is for certain, this chick does not seem to be in any hurry to grow up. In some breeds, this can be a good indication of a cockerel as they tend to feather out slower in those breeds. We may just have to declare this year our year of the roo!

 

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The little trio of nuggets practicing chicken things in the clover.

 

In the meantime, these chicks are ready for some outside time, but not large or feathered out enough to spend all day or a night outside. They get supervised play time where they can run and fly about, nibble at the clover and dandelion seed heads, and get a taste for the great outdoors!