Friday, 12 October 2012

Where has the time gone?

Lotti (short for Borlotti, as her markings remind me of said beans) and Poppy are continuing to flourish.  They are getting bigger and heavier. It's not so noticeable with Lotti,who's a flyweight Exchequer Leghorn, but it is noticeable with Poppy who is an Australorp x Indian Game.   They've learned to fly up on to my outstretched arm, a la Falcon,  and I really notice it with Poppy.
They are both very vocal, but as they can only form parping sounds at the moment it's not a problem. Poppy is especially tame. Lotti pretends not to be: it has to be on her terms.

They continue to try and be part of the Big Girl flock at every opportunity.  When the netting separates the two flocks this works well. The Big Girls permit the Littlees to sit "next" to them, and generally pretend they can't see them.  The Littlees pretend the fence isn't there and they are all one happy flock - they have no real concept (yet) of trying to fight for  a place in the pecking order. 

The Littlees are 14 weeks old now, so we've started allowing more joint free ranging.  It generally goes OK, until the Big Girls decide to com and inspect the Littlees area.  The Big Girls come storming in, and the Littlees run away.   I've been trying to prevent that happening, by rearranging the two free range areas. This gives more joint fencing, and there are a couple of gaps in the fencing which are large enough for a Littlee to pop through but too small for the Big Girls.  I've also tried to shoo some of the big Girls out so the Littlees are only invaded by 1 or 2 hens at a time.

In preparation for the Next Big Step, the two free ranging areas are now set up so that I can open up the fruit cage to one or other or  both areas.  We'll be doing that shortly, opening it up to both sets, as it will be neutral ground on which they can meet. And there is lots to do,  and lots of places to shelter from being bullied. . Of course the concept of "neutral ground" is a bit lost on the Big Girls as they seem to think that everything belongs to them.

Tilda, my special-needs chicken, is moulting. She's not a happy bunny.  I've tried cheering her up with extra protein (out of sight of everyone else) in the form of fish flavoured cat food,  hard boiled eggs, tuna....   She is particularly aggressive when she encounters  Lotti or Poppy without a safety net.  I don't blame her: being bottom of 5 hens is bad enough,   being bottom of 7 would be worse. She has to try and assert herself.

Seeing the Littlees trying to join  up with the Big Girls makes me realise that I do need to let them integrate, even though I really want to keep them safe and happy.  Apart from anything else, they could do with extra feathered bodies in the coop to keep them warm as the nights get colder.
So, I'll enable more of the joint free ranging, and I'll aim to open up the fruit cage in a week or so.


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