These new chickens of ours have felt a little bit like middle children compared to their older counterparts...there are very few pictures of them, they don't get as many exciting kitchen scraps, they don't get held quite as much. Sometimes I find myself feeling a bit guilty about these things...then I remind myself that they are chickens...just chickens...
They are very cute and adventurous chickens, though. The red one, Beer Can, is always trying new things, like figuring out how to climb up on to the big ladies' perch or how to fly around the yard. And the yellow one, Bernadette, follows her everywhere. No matter where they are or what they are doing, you can always find them side by side. They are quite the pair!
Over the past couple weeks we have been working to introduce them and familiarize them to the older hens. We started the introductions by putting them in adjacent fences in the yard so that they could see each other and get used to one another, but still be separate and free from pecking. We also put them in the chickens' new fenced area while the big hens were in their run, which once again forced them to be close together, but still separate.
Then this past week we started putting the chicks in the run and chicken yard with the hens during the day. This has been a bit of a rocky transition. The chicks have received quite a few pecks from the hens and the they are quite afraid of the big ladies. Each day gets a little better, though, and we're hoping to fully transition the chicks outside over the next few days.
This has all been complicated a bit by Henrietta, our big Buff Orpington, whose motherly instincts have kicked in quite strongly over the past couple weeks. She has fully entered the broody stage, which includes sitting in the nesting box all day and night, pulling out her chest feathers in order to keep her baby eggs warm, and a sabbatical from egg laying as she focuses completely on hatching those eggs. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that the eggs will never hatch into babies and we also take away all of the eggs each day. She's one dedicated mama, though. So much so, that we're considering getting some fertilized eggs for her to hatch next spring...she would make a good mama hen.
The downside of broodiness is the full-fledged chicken PMS that accompanies it! My, oh my, she is one crabby lady!! Any time we open the nesting boxes, she puffs out all of her feathers and grunts at us. And on the rare occasion that she comes out from the nesting box for food and water, she runs around the chicken yard squawking and grunting, with feathers puffed out. The other ladies do not seem to like this broodiness and as a result, they peck at her and chase her around every time she's out and about. This causes her to run right back into the coop to safety. Poor girl, the female population sympathizes with you...
The chicks are very afraid of Henrietta and the crazy sounds that come out of her as she runs wildly around the chicken yard. So, we're trying to time their transition into the coop with Henrietta's transition back to normal life. From what I've read, broodiness lasts for just a few weeks. So, she should be coming out of it soon and we can hopefully all transition into a new way of life, one in which chickens live outside, and not in our dining room and both hens and chicks co-exist in peaceful harmony...soon...very soon.