Last night we had the now usual dilemma. Lotti and Poppy hanging around at the bottom of the Big Girls (BGs) ladder...then going back to their own Cube.
However, yesterday they went up their ladder and back down again, and hung around again at the BGs ladder.
I crept out into the dusk, and cruelly shut their pop hole.
When they tried to get in again, it was closed.... and they had to go in with the BGs.
Didn't they? No. They didn't.
They stood at the top of the ladder, trying desperately to get the door to open. They were getting stressed.
So, I went out again into the icy dusk, whipped open the BG's Cube roof, shone torch through, and called them. The BGs weren't too happy. I leaned in, and held my arm against Florence, Roobarb and Milly to push them out of the doorway and to stop them blockading.
Custard, who had been dozing in one half of the separated nest box, started to move. I shouted for my DH to come and help. He did, but he's a bit slow and by the time he got there, Roobarb was down the ladder and I was desperately trying to restrain two sets of hens and hold a torch.
What followed was an epic pantomime. Milly broke free and charged down the ladder. The Littlees, in panic, ran back to their own run. It was getting dark, and the chooks can't see very well. My torch ran out. I went back to the house to get a replacement.
I billed and cooed and coaxed, and eventually Lotti managed to find me, and the followed DH's torchlight up into the Cube. Milly and Roobarb didn't know what was going on. Poppy, now on her own, was batting desperately atthe closed coop door. Eventually, she flew down, and then hopped up onto the Cube wheel.
DH continued to try and coax Milly and Roobarb back up the steps. I went round to the back of the LG's cube, opened the door (thank goodness we put doors in all over the place), intending to try and coax Poppy to come to me so I could carry her back round into the main run. She fled. I locked the door, and ran round into the run.
Several hours later, or so it seemed, Poppy mounted the BGs ladder, and managed to get in to the Cube. We shut everything up, and left them to it. We re-opened the LGs pop hole, just in case there were midnight shenanigans and the littlees needed somewhere to go.
This morning, everyone was grumpy. Lotti was chattering away to me, obviously very wound up. She followed me everywhere, chattering away loudly. Poppy hid under a bush and wouldn't come out. Later, I saw Milly actually peck Lotti, and then actively chase her. I haven't seen her do that with such venom for a long time.
I've decided that forcing it was a Big Mistake. Tonight, we'll let them go to bed where they want, and then manually move them in together if they choose separate coops. The BGs seem to understand that being airlifted in is beyond the LGs control, and does not represent them making a stab at snatching power.
I do know they are only chickens. But the pattern that gets set now is one that will stick, and I don't want to cause aggro where it can be avoided.