It took a long time for the newbies to make friends with Ava and Mabel. Actually, no, it didn’t take long for them to become pals with Little Ava. Mabel on the other hand…
It was like fighting on two fronts, trying to integrate three young bantams with two established, older ones – something that has always needed time and patience – and trying to snap Mabel out of her increasingly irritable (for her) and irritating (for me!) broodiness. Broodiness can be fatal for hens as they can forget to eat and drink while they’re on the nest, so I had always insisted on taking her out and making sure she ate. I wasn’t too concerned about her as she was eating and drinking but it was still something to keep an eye on.
When Eliza arrived, she had her own problem, a long beak. Despite putting a brick and rock in their temporary enclosure to ensure she would rub her beak alongside it, a week and a half later her beak still looked the same. I enlisted the help of Mum, who helped me trim it with an emery board. Eventually young Eliza’s beak looked just as good as her chums’.
The introduction process continued on slowly. The chickens came into my house for a meet and greet session a few times. The first was not a success as little Ava (yes, Ava!) went for Matilda, Mabel’s lookalike.
We put the new hens in Ava and Mabel’s coop, an opportunity for them to start getting accustomed to their new abode. While this was happening, Ava and Mabel took a field trip to the youngsters’ home to (hopefully) get used to the new hens’ scent.
It was time for me to start trusting. Ava at least. And for the most part, Ava didn’t seem to mind the new girls, never getting too close to them, keeping her distance to an extent, but still close enough for them to get used to her.
On the other hand, Mabel always needed a close eye as she was grumpy and unfortunately prone to bullying if she could get away with it.
Three weeks on Simon came to visit. While I was out, he supervised the girls who were all in the garden. The previous time I had let them do this Ava had been okay but keeping a distance from the new hens. Unfortunately, Simon reported that Mabel had attacked Victoria while I had been out. Looked like it was back to square one.
Eventually we got to the point where Mabel tolerated the new girls. I would find them perching on a low border in the garden, the three amigos close together while Ava and Mabel sat a little further on.
Being standoffish is much better than being a bully though. When Mabel came out of brooding, her demeanour improved and her toleration grew. And instead of two separate groups tolerating each other, the friends started mixing more and I would find the whole group together by my door looking for mealworms, led by Little Ava or Mabel. Maybe it was a co-leadership?
Thankfully the five are all one group now but we have another challenge to cope with – bird flu, which seems to be particularly bad this year. And it seems that with bird flu comes lockdowns (not for humans this time). How do I keep wild birds and chickens safe while doing my best to make sure the chickens live as enjoyable life as they can in the circumstances?
For Little Ladies, Part 1:https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2022/10/15/little-ladies-part-one-or-integrating-chickens-when-you-have-a-grumpy-hen/: Little Ladies Part 2