Thursday, 17 February 2011

Funny how things become "normal"

We had 3 hens originally.  

One died very soon after we got them and, as is best practice, we decided to introduce 2 new girls.   After keeping them separate, and then gradually introducing them,  this meant we had 4 girls in our Run.

I remember DH and I talking about whether we would get more, and we both agreed that 4 was probably enough in the size of run we had. (3mx4m + a T piece).  My neighbour asked if we would be getting more, or was 4 enough? (SHe wasn't being funny, it was a genuine enquiry).

Then Scarlett's crop got impacted, and we weren't able to save her.   3 birds didn't seem enough, so, as is best practice,  we got 2 more.  After keeping them separate and then gradually introducing them, this meant we had 5 girls in our run.  We added an extra 1m squared to the T piece of the run.  5 Girls seemed enough.    We couldn't imagine only having 3 again.

Then Jasmine (one of the last two to be added) died suddenly.    We were down to 4 Girls.   It was OK.  We agreed we would wait until we had another loss before adding any more.

On the Allotment, we needed to add to our breeding flock.  We bought 2 gorgeous Welsh Blacks  and, on impulse, some Australorp hatching eggs.  One of the WBs laid an egg on the way home, so we incubated that as well , along with the Australorp eggs, and a few of our Sasso breeding flock eggs.  We only had 1 Australorp hatch,  plus the Egg that was laid on the way home,  and the breeding eggs.  Only 2 of the Sassos  were Girls.

All of the chicks lived happily together.  The Australorp turned out to be a Girl, and I wanted to add her to my garden flock.   You can't introduce only 1, so  I was trying to source a similarly aged Gold Campine girl.   It didn't work out, so we decided we'd add one of the Sassos to the Garden flock as well.  The Egg, a Welsh Black, we had planned for her to join our breeding flock. Youcan't introduce only 1, so we decided to keep the other Sasso as well.

Now, the 4 Girls were very young, far too young to introduce to either grown up flock, so we kept them all together.  We were running out of space at the Allotment, the weather was rubbish,  so we took the decision to introduce all four to our Garden flock,  and then in the Spring we would introduce the two breeders  to the breeding flock.

The introductions, despite taking it very slowly and starting with separate accomodation, were very, very painful.  The four youngsters, despite being at point-of-lay when we finally started to let them mix with the established Garden Girls,  were mercilessly bullied.  There wasn't any blood drawn it rarely got that physical,  but they really were harrassed. It was horrible.

Once minute I felt dreadful for the newbies, who had been living as a little group of 4 so happil, until I introdced them to the Big Girls.  I felt especially awful when they started to try and dominate each other.   The next minute I was feeling awful for my established Girls, who had been living quite happily as a group of 4.  The reorganising of the pecking order meant that myoldest girl, the head chook,  was having her authority challenged and she was losing it.  That would not have happened if I hadn't introduced newbies.

Eventually, peace broke out.  We currently have 8 hens in the Garden.  We extended the T piece by another 1.5 square metres.   They free range all day, every day.   

I'm not sure that the two earmarked for the breeding flock will go and join the breeding flock.  It's not, as you might think, that I have grown so attached to them that I want them as my pets.  Of course, that's part of it.  But that's more of a "..and another thing.." rather than the real reason.

The real reason is that both flocks are stable at the moment.  If I introdue 2 newbies to the breeding flock, we - and they, of course - are going to have to live through those weeks of horribleness.  Not only will it be hard on the two interlopers, it's not going to be much fun for the established breeding girls.  And it may cause pecking order repercussions here.

It's now become "normal" to see 8 girls in my garden.  Of course, I can't imagine having any more than 8.  If and when one of them dies (which is likely to be sooner rather than later,  our oldest Girl is definitely showing her age),  we will not replace her with 2 hens.      We'll wait until we get to 6 or fewer, and then look at additions.

Famous last words?

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