Making friends (the chicken method)

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So it took two weeks for Mabel and Ava to meet and greet Florence, Jemima and Dottie through the fencing, first of their coop, then of the small run.

The first time Florence set eyes on the two new girls peering curiously out of the wire mesh, she launched herself aggressively onto their coop, flapping her wings.

Not what I expected from the once docile, sweet Flo.

Jemima did the same.

Not what I expected from the lazy, often broody Jemima.

And Dottie? Who was bossy and used to peck Florence when she was a youngster?

She ignored them.

To be fair, most of the time everyone ignored each other. There were curious glances but otherwise both groups of chickens got Β used to the other gang being in the vicinity. As long as they were kept apart from fencing, that is.

After a week of ‘quarantine’, where Mabel and Ava got used to their new surroundings, they were allowed out in the small run. The older hens roamed free in the outer garden. I worried that the youngsters would try and sneak through the flimsy netting and (typical of my worst fears) get pecked and eaten by a three-strong gang of tough pekin bantams.

Well, maybe just the pecking although I have heard of cannibalism in chickens…

It went smoothly but, because of my concerns, I continued to keep close watch while they were out.

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They were often in full sight of the other chickens.

Then it was deemed time for them to wander the full length of the Hen Garden. I closed the other chickens in, and Dad and I cleared the garden of anything that could possibly be a danger. We also closed off any potential small areas of escape. I worried they would fly away, squeeze under a tiny hole or eat something they shouldn’t.

None of these things happened. They loved their new-found freedom.

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Then it was Meet and Greet Day. One by one, in the comfort of my living room, Ava and Mabel met Jemima, Florence and Dottie. All went well except Florence pecked Ava (where was the nice Flo?) and oddly, Mabel pecked Dottie.

Originally, they were all going to be introduced that night as I heard bedtime was the best time to introduce chickens. But after the two pecking incidents, I, well, ‘chickened out’ (!) Instead, every day for the next fortnight, all the chickens went out in their designated Hen Garden but slept in their respective coops at night.

At first, there was chasing by Jemima (well, at least it woke her from broodiness) and Florence. No harm done but it did make Mabel and Ava wary of the mean girls.

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There also seemed to be segregation, with one group at the top and the other at the bottom of their garden. And vice versa.

But gradually, over the fortnight, Mabel and Ava creeped over towards the group, little by little, step by step. Still a little chasing went on, usually by Jemima, and I caught Dottie peck Mabel (was this revenge?) but generally, they slowly, surely, accepted the two youngsters.

When Mabel and Ava wandered over to the older hens’ coop and pottered around, eating grain, there was an air of acceptance.

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I was nervous when the big moving in day arrived. At 5pm, when it was twilight, not dark for us humans but bedtime for chickens, Dad and I took out Ava and Mabel from their perches and placed them on the perch in their new home.

A couple of times I sneaked towards the coop, hovering by the door, waiting in anticipation for any noises.

All quiet on the chicken front.

The next morning, they were all as one. A little bit of bickering went on about corn (well, if you can’t argue about corn, what can you argue about?) but otherwise…

I left them in their coop, to their own devices, while I went for a walk. When I got back, I found Florence had laid an egg (good girl, Flo!) and she had been followed into the bedroom by Jemima, Dottie, Mabel and Ava.

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Florence on top, Jemima, Dottie, Mabel and Ava bottom

Over the last week, the once segregated groups have integrated into one, bigger group. It took patience, anti-pecking spray and nerves – and a few weeks – but it looks like Ava and Mabel have made themselves at home and made new friends at the same time.

Most importantly, they also learnt very quickly where they could beg for mealworms!

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19 thoughts on “Making friends (the chicken method)

  1. Our flock does well as long as they have lots of room to spread out (free range) but when it is time to go in the coop at night the we can see the pecking order – the ones higher in the pecking order will actually peck the others in order to get the “best” roost spot. Once it gets dark everyone settles in for the night. We just have to make sure they get let out as soon as it gets light. They never hurt each other just show who is boss.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I first got the original three hens, one of them used to peck the youngest and I thought it was bullying and wanted to intervene but it was just Dottie telling Florence she was the boss. These days I have no idea who’s boss, it seems to depend on who’s laying, moulting etc. I have noticed there seems to be a lot of movement in the roosting area when they decide where to sleep and like your hens, it’s all quiet once it’s dark. I make sure they free range nearly every day when I’m around so they have plenty of space. I think boredom and lack of space could lead to issues so I try to combat that.

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  2. I loved this and learned a lot about chicken behavior Clare … in fact are these chickens any different than humans and being the new kid in town? We humans like to think we are the superior beings … we are not all that different from our animal friends are we?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chickens do remind me of humans, very social and complicated animals. Humans can be ‘clique’, sticking with the familiar and not wanting to mix with people who are different and hens can be the same. Yes, humans and hens do seem more similar than first appears! Thankfully no bullying has occurred, my worst fear, and they all appear happy together now. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I was surprised about that and it would be horrible for them to exclude their own kind wouldn’t it? Luckily the new chickens were welcomed “into the fold” as that expression goes and they all will live together peaceably.

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