22 September 2013

New Chicken Drama

I've considered getting more chickens, either by hatching them, buying day-old chicks, or by getting some that are ready to start laying, but most of that involves a little drama.  Hatching them means that you will have roosters to get rid of eventually.  Getting day-old chicks means raising them yourself, or, if you have a broody hen, hoping she will do it for you, but being prepared in case she doesn't.  Introducing older chickens to the flock means taking the risk that they will be rejected by the flock.  One of the first times I introduces a new chicken, she got run off almost immediately.  We found her a few days later a few houses away.

I had the opportunity to adopt three Dominiques from a neighbor this weekend.  He had a situation that forced him to get rid of his chickens.  As I am writing this, he still has seven more that need a home.  Hopefully we'll be able to find one.  I got some of his Dominiques because I remember reading that they were all around good birds.  Most people getting chickens want ones that are fairly young, and at 2+ years old, these are probably close to middle-age.  I think I like the chickens as much for the entertainment as I do for the eggs, so it doesn't bother me to have older hens.

Once I decided which ones and how many I could take, it was just a matter of how to go about this.  I thought his chickens were fairly friendly, and I could walk up to one and pick her up - that wasn't the case, but the first one wasn't hard to catch, since there were ten of them in a confined space.  I put her under my arm, walked back to the house and dumped her over my fence, away from my other chickens just to be safe.

With the second and third ones, I decided to use a net to make it easier.  So after dumping the third one over the fence, I went to observe all the chickens to see if there was any interaction, good or bad, but I could only find two of the three new hens.  I looked in every hiding place in the back yard, but no luck - she must have gone over the fence.  I happened to spot her in the front yard - she was just wandering around out there.  With a little luck I was able to catch her fairly easily and put her back in the back yard.  The didn't seem to interact with the rest of the flock, but they weren't being harassed either, so that was good.

The next important time to see how they interact is when it is time to go to bed.  My experience is that the first night can be the hardest for the new birds.  They're somewhere they've never been and may not know exactly where to go, even though the other chickens do.  Once it got dark, I went to see if the new hens has figured out what to do, and they hadn't.  One was in the run, but hadn't gone into the hen house to roost.  I was able to grab her, and open up the house, and put her on the roost, but it was like she physically couldn't sit on it.  I had to try several times before she didn't fall off.  I had never seen anything like that before.

I found the second one nesting under some giant elephant ears near the hen house.  She was easy to grab and put on the roost.  Then I had to find the third one.  I got a flashlight and looked in every hiding place I could find, but no luck.  The one place left was in a large Japanese privet that was growing in the chicken area.  Sure enough, she was roosting in the giant shrub.  I was able to grab her and put her on the roost next to her sisters.

While writing all of this, I've been monitoring the integration process while taking lots of photos, and there is just too much to write about right now.  Print news can't handle breaking news.  Anyway, that's the situation so far.  I will write more later.  Stay tuned.

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