08 August 2010

Losing interest

The mother hen is beginning to get bored of her five-week-old chicks. For the last few days she's been spending the daylight hours with the main flock of adult birds. At night though, she wants to be in the chick enclosure with her three youngsters. Instead of sleeping on the floor with them, as she used to do, she perches on the old manger in the chick enclosure and the chicks huddle up next to her.

I've been letting the chicks out of their coop and into the fenced run in the evening for ten minutes or so, after the adults have been locked up for the night. In the mornings, I let the chicks and adults run together for a while, under supervision, before shutting the chicks into their corner of the barn for the day, without the ex-broody hen, who seems to have decided that she's had enough maternity leave for now.

The twelve larger chicks, which are now coming up for seven weeks old, are wary of the adult hens and keep their distance. They've learnt from their experience in sharing the coop with the mother of the small chicks that big hens can be aggressive. The three smaller chicks are used to being protected by their mother and are less sensible, often going a bit too close to the other hens and the rooster and getting a peck in return.

It will be a few weeks before I can integrate the two sets of birds completely, but I hope that this gradual introduction will make that process more straightforward. I have been doing a bit of reading around the subject of introducing a new set of birds to an existing flock, but haven't come across anything that quite matches the particular circumstances in which these chicks have been reared. Taking it slowly and closely watching the behaviour of all the birds seems to be the best way forward, for now.


Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Herring Gulls where I live get very shirty with their offspring. It's funny seeing a young gull (large) following its parent along a roof top begging for food by stooping over and jogging its head up and down. Backwards and forwards they go, with the parent gull trying to pretend it hasn't a clue who the young gull is . . . never met you before . . . no, really, you are nothing to do with me, NO! GET YOUR OWN FOOD. GOODBYE!


Jess DeLo said...

Just stumbled upon your blog, LOVE IT! My husband and I also have chickens and try to be a DIY kind of couple!


Amanda said...

Lucy - the mother hen has given up on them completely now and is back to laying eggs. I saw her give them a few pecks before they finally parted company, so I think she was beginning to be like your gulls

Jess - glad you like it - good luck with yours!