Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken Integration, and Farm Moments

Nearly three weeks ago now the mother hen and her chick moved outdoors into the chicken run, separated from the other four adults in the existing "flock" by a makeshift barrier of wood and chicken wire and a shower curtain. They can see each other and talk across the wire but not touch. The first time I let them "mix" lasted less than 5 minutes because Sarah, the boss hen, and Sylvie, the new hen, got into a fight. Both had blood on their combs but I separated them quickly. More time went by and round two took longer - they waited awhile, then fought. This weekend round three came and they actually got along for about 6 hours before having a tiff, and there was no blood drawn. I have read that you need to let chickens "talk" across the fence about three weeks before integrating unsupervised, and it's been about that now, so last night I let them mix by moving the barricade so they can go around it. No fighting. Today is the first day of full integration and so far, so good. Looks like they are working out the pecking order without hurting each other at this point.

I have two one month old chicks in the house still, too small to go outside yet, especially in this cold. Hannah (a Cuckoo Maran) and Rose (a Rhode Island Red) arrived this weekend and after a little trauma they are settled in a cat carrier in one of the bedrooms, huddled up together. I expect in a month they will be big enough to move outside and so I'll keep the makeshift barrier around until they settle in - but I bet by the end of April or mid-May everyone will be living together alright. In summer they get lots of free ranging time and so they should be happy.

The cows have been in one pasture all week so I left a gate open for them to explore another today, but so far, they didn't. The mother cow, named Bernadette (Bernie for short) was lazing under her favorite tree, not interested in new territory.

It's an ULTRA stressful time at work but I ran home at noon to check on the chicken fighting. For about 5 minutes I stood at the back pasture gate, holding Pepper (aka Perpperoni) who thinks she is a great ranch cat. (In reality she has hinky back hips, is very klutzy, but loves to accompany me on all farm chores, even though she is only actually helpful a small percentage of the time). Pepper and I watched the chickens sunbathing, the horses grazing, the goats napping, and the cow, out in the far pasture, resting under the tree with her small calf a tiny black dot beside her. It was very peaceful. For a few minutes, I forgot about everything else.

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