I’m a person who likes to prepare. Research, studying, and compiling information is a joy, and when I took up raising chickens, it was the preparation that convinced me I was ready for the hobby. But no matter how much I prepare, there’s always something I don’t know until I jump in. Usually, it’s something I expect should be easier than it really is. For me, doing is my real teacher.
Here’s what I’m struggling with this week:
A Tricky Transition
My big realization this week is that transitioning the new flock in with the existing flock has a tipping point. Currently, the newbies are visible to the flock but cannot mingle. Eventually, the time will come when they will mix. The time between the two—the easy transition—doesn’t really exist.
I’m going to have to send the wee chicks off into the flock soon, or they’ll never get there. As a parent who buys every chicken picture book published for her human chicks, I imagine a civil scenario that plays out something like: “Hello. My name is Butterscotch. It’s nice to meet you Clara. Will you play with me?” The reality is that they will bicker and peck their way to peace.
The little darlings have outgrown their brooder, so outside they must go. Last night, the chicks, 5 weeks 5 days old, slept through the night in their temporary grow-out pen in the backyard for the first time. I worried about them being afraid of the dark, of all things, and rushed to check on them as the sun came up this morning. Their temporary mobile enclosure will house them for a few more weeks in sight of the hens until I figure out their next move.
Helen, the Australorp, is terrified of the chicks. She explored the chicks’ daytime quarters as I unloaded them from the brooder yesterday morning. Snowball, the Speckled Sussex, flew from the brooder box into her assigned daycare area, sneaking up on Helen, who went berserk and ran away. I have a feeling the often-broody Australorp won’t be sitting on eggs again for a long time.
As expected, my attack Polish hen, Sookie, views the chicks as threats to the flock. The flock has come face to face with the chicks twice. The second time, Sookie attempted to attack, but I was there to stop her. Once the chicks join the hens in the coop in a few weeks or so, Sookie will take the chicks’ place in the grow-out pen. She’ll be isolated within view of the entire flock, knocking her attitude down a peg while the girls work out their order. This is Sookie’s last chance. If isolation doesn’t deter her predatory behavior, it will be time to put her down.
A Hungry Hawk
A stunning hawk has been visiting the chicks, perching on the top of their daytime play area, which is now the grow-out pen. It’s secure enough to protect them, but because the hawk knows the babies are there, he comes by daily to check on their availability. For now, I’ve tossed a bed sheet over the top to mask their movement, and to give the babies shade.
The hens are still free-ranging, despite the hawk. These last hot summer days have them hiding under the protection of thick weeds we’ve let grow behind the shed. The girls spend most of their days there, where the soil is soft underneath, dust-bathing and foraging together until the evenings cool. They’re safe, and every time the hawk stops by, the whole flock lets me know.