DH mentioned that some of the boys are cock a doodling, and one of the boys started sidling up to him on Thursday. They were 19 weeks old on Thursday, so it isn't surprising.
We don't want to separate the boys and girls until we have to, partly because we still aren't entirely sure about some of the chooks. However, this strategy means that we may have to separate them in a hurry, so I wanted to make sure that everything was ready.
We discussed whether to keep the Girls in their current pen, meaning we had 3 separate pens, or whether to let the Girls merge with the Big Girls. I had originally thought we'd have 3 pens, but I had also assumed that we would be doing the separating at 14-16 weeks, when the Little Girls would be too immature to be mixing with the Big Girls. At 19 weeks they aren't exactly mature, but it might be best to get all the upheaval over with. They will keep their current coops, we'll just remove the fence which currently divides the two flocks. The area is big enough that everyone should be able to keep out of everyone else's way; there are at least 6 Girls (maybe more, as I said there are a couple we aren't sure about) to be introduced to our 7 existing, so that should even out the bullying.
So, today, DH enlarged the area that will be the cockels' pen. While he did that, I rigged up a temporary grazing area outside our allotment, and caught 8 chickens and put them out. I then got on with the mucking out etc, and then I swapped the 8 grazing for the other 8. It was a good way to also take a look at each chook, checking it was healthy, seeing what its temperament was like.
Much later, we turned the coop around ready, and we started to put up some of that roll-up fencing stuff along sides which face onto the Girls pen. The idea is to provide a visual barrier between the cockerels and the hens (not great, what it really needs is blackout material). We also created a no-hens-land with some moveable netting, to further separate things. We need to get some very large stakes to support some of the fencing, so we couldn't finish.
Once this was done, we were watching the Littlees, trying to see if we could sex the few we aren't sure about, and we saw one of the boys jump one of the girls. So, that's it then. Once one starts, they all get the idea.
Tomorrow we will finish the work and put all the definitely boys in the cockerel pen, and take out the separation between the two Girly pens. And then we'll keep an eye on the unsures and move them as we can.
I cried a bit on the way home, because separating the boys means that we will soon have to start culling them. A couple are a good weight already, but the two that are, are (currently) quite docile., soft things Ideally we want to take out any aggressive boys first. I reminded myself that this was the whole point, that they have had a good free range life, blah blah blah.... And if we hadn't hatched them, we wouldn't have ended up with Lotti and Poppy in the garden. I know I'll get over it, but it is hard.