Another confession of a backyard chicken owner: chickens are not for the faint of heart. As a friend said, “humans are cruel, chickens are just chickens.”
Part of backyard chicken ownership is succession planning. My quartet of Henny, Penny, Jenny and Louise was now down to just Henny, Penny and Louise. Ask me sometime about the magical and mysterious “dead chicken fairy.” I swear to you, this is a thing. With Jenny gone and Louise aging, it was time to think about a new round of hens.
It’s best practice to introduce new chickens in groups of at least two, that way they have a buddy to be with as they acclimate to the existing flock. So, I found a friend to raise some extra chicks and ended up with Bette the Barred Rock, Lynette the Lace Wing Wyandotte and Amelia the Auracana. They are still about 1/2- 2/3 their adult size, but fully fledged and ready to join the gang.
Let the chicken wars begin.
I started by separating my hens outside the coop and run in the yard with an extra feeder and waterer. I shut the new hens into the coop and left them there for two hours to acclimate to their new surroundings while my older girls ate grass and hunted bugs (and ran down the sidewalk until my neighbor herded them home).
All was well. I am so good at this.
That was about 2pm.
By 4pm I had opened up the coop so that the two groups could mingle with each other in the whole space of the yard and slowly get accustomed with their new flock-mates. Cue the sirens and bombs. Bette, Lynette and Amelia were reluctant to leave the coop where they were relatively comfortable. Henny, Penny and Louise, on the other hand, bowled right into the coop, cornered the young hens and had them literally peeping like little chicks. Every so often Louise sunk a well placed peck until the young hens were finally able to scoot out of the coop. Louise commenced with crowing and guarding the coop for the next two hours, just in case the whole neighborhood failed to get her point.
Well, this was getting stressful for sure, but so far there were no injuries or serious squabbles, just a lot of posturing and noise. Breathe, it’s all going according to plan.
By 7:30pm I was chasing Lynette around the neighbors yard and mentally begging my older gals to just GO TO SLEEP already, so that the new hens could get into the coop without fear and go to bed too. The older hens hung out, casually sauntering around outside the entrance to the coop like bar hoppers reluctant to leave at last call. All the time in the world. The young hens peeped nervously and gathered themselves in all the wrong places, requiring a lot of herding and anxious observation on my part.
Phone call: My boyfriend is asking about my day and setting some weekend plans. “I don’t know hun, it’s been a long day and I am waiting for the chickens to go to sleep”
“Oh no babe, the dog got anxious while I was out at a dinner meeting and buried a pound of pasta in the couch… and my empty chapstick tubes..” (another story entirely)
8:15 FINALLY, Henny, Penny and Louise head up to bed and I can help Lynette, Bette and Amelia into the coop to go to sleep too.
8:45 The thunderstorms are starting and while I was able to clean up the dry pasta and empty chapstick tubes, the dog is now shaking next to me.
But, the chickens are safe and asleep in their coop, until we start all over again tomorrow. They say the introductory period can last up to a week!