For some time we have been a house divided here at Bumblebee.
We had the three laying hens living in one set of accommodations and the younger chickens living in another. They showed interest in each other and occasionally pecked at each other through the wires, but there was no co-mingling of the chickens.
Since winter is inevitably creeping our way, I started allowing the chickens side-by-side free range time about three weeks ago to prepare them for their lives together.
Predictably, the three hens took one course and the two younger chickens another. There was the occasional skirmish if someone found a particularly tasty bug or worm, but for the most part, the two mini-flocks were separate, but equal.
This week as colder temperatures hit in earnest, I decided to force the integration of the flocks.
After letting all the chickens out for their afternoon walkabout, I closed the Eglu hotel where the younger chickens had been shacked up. Little did they know what was in store for them as they went off to blissfully peck for bugs.
As evening rolled around, the three hens moved back to their Palazzo di Pollo. The two younger chickens began circling the Eglu, making escalating sounds of distress.
“Hey, who closed the door. Let us in!!”
Clearly, they would not just follow the hens into the Palazzo. We had to do a bit of human intervention. Ben and I caught the chickens and shoved them into the Palazzo.
I am very sad to report that my sweet hens did not show their best sides. In fact, they were horrid to the poor chicks. No one was seriously injured, but there were definitely feathers all about the Palazzo when I went to open their door in the morning. The two chicks had taken refuge behind the garbage can where I keep their stash of food and the three hens were strutting about and barking like dogs. It was not their finest moment.
Since no one was hurt—except perhaps for their feelings—I decided to press on with the integration.
Over the next few days, hostilities continued, with the hens asserting their dominance and the two younger chickens cowering in fear. After all, they were out-numbered.
Then one particularly cold evening I left the big door of the chicken house open hoping that all the chickens would find their way inside unassisted because I was busy indoors. To my amazement, when I went to tuck them in, all five of the chickens were huddled together in a warm little ball in the corner of the Palazzo. It seems that hostilities cease in cold weather. Even chickens are pragmatic in their cold weather co-habitation decisions.
I won’t say that all the chickens are now fast friends. But the pecking order has been established and there is now the minimum of hazing of the newcomers.
As for the question of gender in the younger chickens, I can only say that one, if not both, are roosters. Minnie Ruth is the smallest of the birds and exhibits the most animosity to humans. I don’t know what I did to deserve her/his ire. My husband says it’s because I keep calling him Minnie Ruth instead of something manly, such as Brett Favre.
As fall sets in and winter takes its place, we have two nice poultry panel heaters that will keep all the chickens warm and happy. I anxiously await the next developments with the chickens. I am most anxious to learn if I have any more hens—or if I am stuck with a couple of cranky roosters.