Monday, March 26, 2012

Progress Update on Integration

Well, we're getting there.  But it's a slow go and I'm really struggling.

The babies get the fact they are supposed to sleep in the hen house.  But they don't want to because the big hens peck at them.  Can you blame them for not wanting to go in there?  So each night I go out at dusk to find the babies frantically pacing and crying because they don't want to go into the house.

I've tried to scoot them into the house ahead of the big girls to show them if they get into place and settled, when the big girls come on, they will just settle down and go right to sleep without much fuss.  But that wasn't working so last night I tried a different approach.  I left the babies outside until the adults went in and thought maybe the babies would then sneak in and go to bed.

The problem is, the babies don't get where they are supposed to sleep or they don't want to sleep there.  They try to roost up right next to the adults or on their jumping block I've put in to help them get up to their roosting bar.  And they get pecked by both Coco and Ginger who want to sleep in the higher positions.

I've put up a cardboard barrier to protect them so if they'd just go to their roost, they'd be fine.  Sigh...

I know my house is a bit tight and in hindsight, I wish I had bought a bigger house.  But in my defense, it did say it was sized for 3-5 hens and I knew I'd never have more than 5 which is why I bought this one.  And I would be willing to buy a bigger house, except that I had my run built around my current hen house.  So getting it out of there and a new one in, would have its own set of challenges.  And even then, unless I can separate the babies from the adults, pecking is STILL going to be an issue.

I'll try a different arrangement tonight to see if that works any better.

But I will say that I'm not having much fun at this time.  I was so concerned about just having the two hens which is why I eagerly added to my flock.  But in retrospect, I think I might have waited until I was down to one hen and then added to the flock.  Or waited till one of my hens went broody to add to the flock.

I fear that this will continue over the next two months until the babies begin to lay and everyone is on the same level of hormones.  My hope is that things will then quiet down and everyone will live together in peace and harmony.  I hope, I hope, I hope...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Operation final integration has commenced

Tonight, we begin the final phase of integrating the babies in with the adults.  Ginger has slowly begun to accept the babies.  I'm really pleased with the progress we've made.  Sometimes, I get frustrated because things are going so slowly, but then I reminder myself, the babies are just 15 weeks old and that most people don't even start this process until their babies are 16 weeks old.

Regardless, the babies are still terrified of Ginger.  And with good reason, she still goes after them.  She did so several time in front of me today.  It's so frustrating.  I don't want to have to put a pepper on her.

I fear we've hit a plateau.  The babies still sleep in their dog crate, the adults in the hen house.  At some point, we've got to break this and create one big happy family.  Especially, as we get close to the babies becoming pullets and laying eggs.  I want them to be comfortable laying eggs in the house in the nest boxes so getting them in there is key for me.

And because we've gone back into a cold pattern and received quite a bit of rain over the weekend.  The back end of the dog crate took on water and now the sand inside is wet.  Which means it's cold.  And that can't be good.

Current photo of the babies.  They are a tight bunch.  They love to hang out on top of the mini hen house I bought.
Kind of an expensive perch but as long as it's getting used for something, I won't complain.  I did weigh one and she's 3.25 lbs.  One more pound and they'll be as big as Ginger.  Hopefully, they'll find their "beak" too and give her a good peck back.  After all, there are three of them and just one of Ginger.  They need to figure that out.

It's tough to see but this is that green plastic fencing you can buy at the hardware store.  I had a roll of it.  So I've divided the hen house in half.  I'll have to put the babies in as they won't be able to get in through the pop door.  And I'm hoping that this will help with integration since they can all see and smell each other but not get to each other.

This is the view from inside the pop door.  Unfortunately, this set up blocks Coco's access from her favorite nest box.  So I put two fake eggs in the middle one and filled it up with shavings and some more Nesting Box Blend to entice her to lay there.

And of course a photo of my sweet Coco running her beak and telling me that these changes are upsetting.
It took me a while to come up w/ this.  I've read that mixing up the roosting situation is a great way to help bring in newbies to an existing flock.  But I didn't want to remove my permanent roosting bar.  I'd have no way of putting it back up.  So I simply covered the top of my house with cardboard to give the illusion that it's now solid.

And then I added a mesh divider to the house and put in a temporary roosting bar on either side.

I like this idea better than a solid wall dividing the coop because I want them to visually get used to each other.  My hope is that after a week or so, I can create a small opening and that the babies can get in through the pop door and put themselves to bed.

The way it's set up now, I'll need to tuck them into their half of the house via the big clean out door.  And maybe I can leave that open in the future for them to access.  But not for tonight.  It's going to be confusing enough for them.

Sunset isn't for two more hours but I'll continue to check up on everyone.  It's going to be a confusing night out there.  Worse case, I'll pull out the adults and put them into the dog crate.  But I really hate to do that to them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lazy Sunday afternoon

It was super warm here this weekend.  So I opened up the gate and let everyone out into the big garden for some free range time.

The babies are still tight and don't separate from each other more than a few feet.  They are really so sweet to watch.  EVERYTHING is new and exciting and frightening and different and it's so much fun to watch them explore and learn.

Honey Bear pecks at EVERYTHING testing it to see if it's edible.

That plant is tough.  Not very tasty as Sugar found out.

And the three amigos stood around and did some preening once they were done in the garden.

And after a little preening, they set back out to do more foraging.

And we can't forget about our matriarch, Coco.  She's really a beautiful bird.

And sweet Ginger.  Poor thing was with egg and kept running back to the hen house.  A few minutes
later, she'd be back outside for more foraging.  Then back to the hen house.  I finally couldn't take it
anymore and put everyone back into the run so that Ginger could lay her egg and not think she's missing out.