A couple of weeks ago, we welcomed three new additions to our chicken family: Betty, Rita and Janice. These pretty girls were ordered from My Pet Chicken back in February and delivered to my chicken-pal Noah sometime in March. He and his wife generously took care of the chicks for me until I was able to pick them up and bring them to their new home. Here are the girls moments after I took them out of the cardboard box and put them into the chicken tractor in the back yard.
Betty, the white one, is an Easter Egger. She'll lay light blue or green eggs, like Peggy. I'm not sure if the fact that she's all white and Peggy is gold and brown will mean their eggs will be different colors or not. We'll see. Rita, with the white feathers on her head and mostly-black body is a Silver Laced Wyandotte. This is one of my favorite breeds, looks-wise, and I have always wanted one. Wyandottes are supposed to be good layers. Some friends of ours in Portland have a couple, and I know they've always got tons of eggs. Janice, who is the largest of the three girls, is a Cuckoo Marans. She'll have that speckled black and white look even when she's an adult hen, and her eggs will be a pretty dark brown color. Once these three start laying in a few months, I expect my egg basket to overflow with a beautiful variety of colored eggs.
After a couple of weeks of spending their days outside in the chicken tractor and their nights inside in a brooder box, I decided it was time to try moving the new girls into the big coop. Honestly, I was getting sick of moving them in and out every day, and I felt like Betty, Janice and Rita were almost big enough to defend themselves--or at least run away quickly. Still, one never knows how a chicken integration is going to go, so I was a bit nervous.
In the weeks that Rita, Betty and Janice were out in the tractor, Peggy and Tina barely even noticed them. The big girls were much more focused on eating weeds, getting into my garden and following me around until I gave them their morning feed. Still, I was concerned Peggy and Tina would beat up on the little ones once they weren't separated by wire mesh. Last Saturday, I tried my usual tactic of having everyone free range together. Again, the big hens paid almost no attention the pullets. So, I figured I'd just go for it. I put Betty, Rita and Janice into the big coop with Peggy and Tina, stepped inside with them and closed the door to the run. And...
Nothing really happened. The little girls cowered a bit and ran away when Peggy or Tina approached, but that's about all. No drama. No pecking. No frightened or angry clucks from anyone. I was kind of stunned. After watching them a bit more, I decided that everyone was fine and left them alone for a while. I came back as the sun was going down, and no one was bleeding. So, I decided to have the little girls sleep in the coop with Peggy and Tina.
Being new to coop and run living, the pullets weren't exactly sure how it worked. So, I ended up putting them into the chicken tunnel and then shoving them inside the coop. Once they were inside, I couldn't really see how everyone was behaving, and I was a bit nervous. I stood outside the coop listening for clucks of pain. Luckily, I didn't hear any. So, I went back inside to cook dinner. About an hour later, I came back down to check on everyone, opened up the nesting box and found this...
Yes, that is all five chickens crammed together into one nesting box (where, by the way, they are not supposed to sleep). They were cuddling together for warmth, I guess. After finding them this way, I was confident there would not be any bloodshed. Easiest flock integration ever! I guess Tina and Peggy are friendlier than I thought they were. I'm sorry I misjudged them.
It's now been almost a week and the chickens are living together pretty happily. The only real issue involves the little girls getting enough to eat. Tina and Peggy tend to be hogs, and they'll try to eat both from their feeder (which is too high for the pullets) and the little girls' feeder. It also took a few days for Betty, Rita and Janice to figure out how to go to bed on their own. Two nights in a row I went down to find them huddled in a corner of the run, and one night they were huddled in a corner of the chicken tunnel--just outside the door to the coop. They figured it out eventually, and now they're just one happy chicken family. Hopefully it'll stay that way.