We have two new chickens. The old girls are getting a little lazy in the laying department, and with winter coming, we want to ensure a steady supply of eggs. The old girls are over two years old, and lay 8-10 eggs a week. They used to lay every day, and as we supply Dad with eggs, this just isn't enough, especially if I bake at the weekends.
So off we went to Surrey Poultry, armed with the old cat box, to catch ourselves a couple of point-of-lay chickens, around 18 weeks old. We hadn't realised just how small they were next to the older hens. We were warned about the pecking order and monitored the introductions. The new girls seemed very happy, eating and drinking, although watching out for the old girls, with their large, fierce-looking red waffles and combs.
The days are fine, amicable. Every hen gets enough to eat and drink. The old girls are showing the young ones how it is done with respect to egg-laying. I don't think it will be long before Bluebelle lays her first egg.
|Bluebelle exploring her new home|
|Old girls, Specky and Ginger - plotting|
The Boxer dogs have been intrigued by the new arrivals, perhaps a little too interested for my liking. Nevertheless, it is mostly harmless. We call it 'two new channels of Boxer dog TV'.
Roosting time is a different story, however. The roosting instinct is strong, even in domestic chickens. Come sundown, the hens form an orderly queue, up the ladder into the hen house. So far, so good. Then, the large speckled Maran starts to peck the young ones. First Bluebelle, then the Copper Black come flying back out the house. Bluebelle had a close encounter with two Boxer dogs on the first night, and now stands her ground. Blackie has taken to leaping/flying up to the roof of the house, even with clipped wings. Of course, it is safe there, but hardly warm or dry. She has also been on the receiving end of curious Boxer dog noses, but still seems to prefer to take her chances rather than sleep in the hen house with Specky.
So we now have an evening ritual. The big dog barks to let me know that the black chicken is on the roof. I throw a towel over her, and gently put her back in the house. I reprimand Specky when she tries to peck Blacky. I close the door, making it dark. All is quiet, until first light.
I'm hoping that things will settle down, although it is almost two weeks since the new arrivals, and it is exhausting being on chicken duty at dusk and dawn. Any tips, chicken-people?
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