Just over a week after we mixed the two groups of hens, it’s gone time for an update on progress! Well, I still have six hens (hey, you’ve got to look on the bright side).
They’re all living together in the run during the day, though the three new girls have still been choosing to bunk in the temporary hen-house at night. Tonight, for the first time, though, Agnes is asleep with the original trio in the ‘big house’, leaving only Doris and Midge in the temporary accommodation. Doris is still using the temporary housing to lay, whereas Agnes has been laying in the main coop for a few days now. The pecking order that established on that first morning out in the garden still appears to be in force, with the strange Agnes > Mabel > Flora > Agnes loop surviving for now.
Speaking of Flora, she’s still wearing her bumper bit. Flora has turned out to be the real problem – I suspect without her presence in the flock everyone would be living essentially in harmony by now. Gertie and Mabel, the two other members of the ‘original’ trio are happy to be side-by-side with the new girls and only scuffle with them very occasionally. Flora has a bad temper, a bad attitude, and seems to spend her life spoiling for a fight. It doesn’t help that she’s also unusually stupid, even by chicken standards. Thick and bad tempered, what a winning combination! Until she’s spending less time trying to thrash poor Doris and Midge into submission, the muzzle is going to have to stay on.
In terms of the effect the bit is having on Flora, it’s less marked than I’d anticipated. She can eat and drink from the normal feeders and drinkers (we made sure of this before taking the additional open drinker out of the enclosure) and goes to bed every night with a bulging crop. She seems to be able to graze to at least an extent, and remains (sadly!) able to bully the other hens, though less so than if she could pull feathers too! The only obvious consequence is in her ability to preen herself.
I suppose it stands to reason that a device primarily designed to stop hens pulling feathers out of other hens would also impair their ability to closely comb their own. Flora is looking really quite tatty, but it’s something she’s going to have to live with for now. Despite her muzzle, she still has the girls terrified, chases them to cower behind the hen house, and if they don’t get away fast enough she’ll leap on their backs while they cower and try to pull neck feathers. I don’t doubt that given the opportunity she’d be doing them real damage, there’s a genuine ferocity to her attacks and I don’t know how long it’s going to take for that to settle down. Soon, I hope, for her sake as well as everyone else’s!
The next bridge to cross is removing the temporary coop so that all six girls are bunking together. They could do with the space back in the extension run, and the nights are getting colder, the open-doored temporary house is no place for any of the girls to be sleeping on a cold winter’s night. We’ve had our first frost here now, so it won’t be long before they’ll really want to be tucked up warm at night!
Still, only just two and a half weeks after I brought the three new girls home in a carrier, overall things are going pretty well. After the experience of introductions last time, I’d reckoned it would take a month to get things settled and so far I think we’re pretty much on target for that, with a bit of luck. How long Flora is going to have to be muzzled, though, I don’t want to guess at this point!
Stay tuned for more, folks, from the ongoing poultry palaver!
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