Friday, 18 July 2008

Moving the run, and an attempt at integration

The new run was built on the patio, and so the new chickens spent their first week living on the patio. However, I was very aware that not only did this mean that WE could hear every squawk, it also meant our long-suffering neighbours could as well. So we have moved them to the bottom of the garden, which has the added bonus of us being able to use the patio. Ever since we moved in to this house in 1999 it has housed animals - mostly rabbits, but now it is completely clear.

Having moved the house and run, I thought it would be a good time to unleash Dopey on Smokey and Snowdrop. I took the canes out, and for the first 5 minutes I thought all would be well - they eyed each other up, but didn't take too much notice. However, Dopey soon remembered that her favourite game was 'chasing new chickens', and the poor new chickens fled to the house. Dopey followed them in and booted them out again, in order to chase them.

This carried on for about an hour with lulls in the warfare. I eventually put the canes back in, as it may be normal to sort out the pecking order in this way, but I didn't think my nerves could take any more!

Part of the problem I think is that they are in an enclosed run - if our fences were up then I would let all 3 of them into the garden, where there is much more space for the new girls to escape from Dopey, so we are going to build a little house for Dopey on the end of the run, and keep the run divided. Then when the garden is secure we can have another go, or they can live together but divided. She still gets the benefit of the company, but can't chase them.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Dividing the run

Over the last few days it became clear that the run needed to be divided so that the chickens could gain confidence in the run together. So we rigged up a temporary divide out of garden canes - a piece of wood at the base with holes drilled through to hold the canes, and a bungee cord woven around the top. The first attempt was a dismal failure, as the chickens just wandered round the side...! But second try we cut a longer piece of wood that actually sat on the wooden frame, and that worked much better.

The chickens didn't seem to mind being in the run together although Smokey and Snowdrop took a little while to get enough confidence to come out with Dopey there. But by the end of the day they were much more confident together. This evening Smokey even managed to dislodge a cane and squeeze round, and Dopey didn't flap at her, and she didn't run away from Dopey. So I hope that a few days of the barrier will help a smooth transition to them all being together. I have put the food beside the barrier on both sides, so that they can get used to eating together.

I put our old children's wooden bench in the run today - they loved it! Perching on it, hiding underneath it, jumping off! It is a great plaything for them.

We had a visitor this evening - fortunately he wasn't too interested in the chickens, but this picture shows how brazen the city foxes have become. The picture is a bit blurry as it was taken through the window, but he is a very fine fox!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Hens named!

Just a quick post - I have decided on the new girls' names - the Bluebelle was always going to be Smokey, but I couldn't decide on the white chicken's name - Graham suggested Snowball, but I have decided on Snowdrop - it is a little more elegant and pretty for a very beautiful chicken. So welcome, Smokey and Snowdrop.

New hens!

Dopey has some new friends! On Wednesday I decided to go and get her 2 new friends. I first went to a bird farm which I have heard good things about. However, two things persuaded me not to buy birds there - firstly, they gave me wrong advice I think - I wanted to get 2 birds, to balance up Dopey's advantages of age/laying status/establishment in run, as otherwise I thought it would be uneven. However they said I should only get 1, as otherwise they would gang up on Dopey. Secondly, their birds seemed a little quiet, a little hunched and I just didn't feel they were as healthy as they might be.

So in the afternoon I went back to Annie Hall, whose chickens were lovely, and I bought a lovely Bluebelle, and a 'silver link hybrid' which I think is similar to the Amber Star chickens. The bluebelle is called Smokey, and I think the white chicken will be Snowball, but I'm not sure yet.

Introducing them to Dopey has been interesting; when I got them home I put them in the chicken house with the pophole shut, so they could have a rest, a drink and some food. They were fairly quiet, but later on they had a big drink and then ventured into the run (I had put Dopey in the house of the other run with the door shut). They enjoyed exploring the run. In the evening I let them all into the run together - Dopey instantly chased the new chickens indoors, and had a bit of a peck. They all slept together happily, but the new birds are obviously wary of Dopey. The first night, the new girls roosted on the perch and Dopey slept on the floor.

Yesterday when I let them out, there was a fair amount of scuffling, and I spent most of the day changing the chickens round - so Dopey spent some time in the rabbit hutch, with the new girls in the run so Dopey could see them and they could see her. I will do this each day so that they have some undisturbed time in the run, to gain confidence - at the moment they are spending most of their time in the house as they feel safe in there. Last night they all roosted together - with Dopey snuggled up on the perch next to Smokey. So I'm hopeful it won't take too many days for them to be happy together! We will have to see how today goes. I'm not totally happy about leaving them out together when I'm out yet, especially as Smokey gave me a fright yesterday when I heard a squawking, went out and found what looked like a very dead Smokey, half under the ramp to get into the house. I thought Dopey must have dropped the ramp on her and squashed her. But when I lifted the ramp, she came out, which was a HUGE relief. So when I go out later, I will banish Dopey to the rabbit hutch and shut the other two in the run, so they have to acclimatise themselves.

Given how scared of Dopey they are, I am SO glad I got 2 chickens - 1 would have been a disaster as it would never have been able to stick up for itself.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A new home for Dopey

We have spent this weekend building a new run for Dopey, as it became obvious that Ginger was not going to let her back into the other run without a fight, and she has seemed to flourish away from the other hens. I bought a house from Annie Hall's Chickens (look on the arks section, and scroll down to the bottom - it is the square one on the left), and Graham bought some wood and mesh to build a run with. When he built the original chicken run, he built the house, but as Dopey was in the rabbit hutch we wanted to get her into the new run in as short a time as possible

The original chicken run.

. On Saturday, Graham built the basic frame - there are a few 'new' features on this run - it is taller, and the roof hinges - this should mean that we can walk in to clean it - when the roof is up and the door open, there is no height restriction. It will also have a roof made of coroline from B&Q. The total cost of materials for the run was just under £100, and the house cost £189, so it is not an expensive run.

The house without its roof, and making the back of the run.

End of day 1! The frame complete, and the house painted blue!

Day 2 - putting the mesh on, and finishing touches to the frame.

Finished! And painted blue!

Dopey, happy in her new home. Now for some friends!