When we released Mrs Boss and the keets on Sunday evening I expected them to repair to the luxury of the castle to sleep. Mrs Boss was having none of that. She clearly was keen to return to the familiarity of her five star hotel, The Hen House.
Luckily, the keets wanted to join her and eventually tentatively negotiated the steep staircase to the communal penthouse bedroom and the snug hay filled nesting box beyond. This was their final roosting space for a couple of nights.
There was a problem. Mrs Boss' old enemy, Barbie, had gone broody and was occupying the nesting box. I was surprised that she had led her brood into enemy territory but pleased that there semed to be a truce.
The night before last I had a vibe to check the keets at dusk. I was making supper but dropped everything and rushed down the garden. There had been intermittent rain all day. Mrs Boss and the keets were roosting out in the open on the hen house roof. They looked very wet and bedraggled. I put Mrs Boss back in the castle and tried to encourage the keets in through the castle gates. They shot round and round the castle, trying to break through the wire to get in and ignoring the large open door. As it was raining, I was cooking and darkness was falling I opened the side wall of the castle. Mrs Boss made encouraging noises and the keets hopped into the dry area and the warmth of her wings.
The next morning John Coe listened to the keet news flash.
"They are wild birds. They can cope with rain. I know that small pheasant can easily drown if there is a bit of flooding but don't worry."
I was worried. Mrs Boss is a bantam. I know that they are delicate and prone to chest infections and the keets are only six weeks old. Suddenly I realised the dangers of mixing fowl. How would Mrs Boss know what was OK for the keets?
Last night I drifted down to the run, having got back late. It was raining hard and I spotted the roof top protest as soon as I turned the corner. Cold and drenched, Mrs Boss and her family were huddled on the roof.
I decided to try a different tack. The next evening I removed Barbie and put her in the castle where I knew she would be warm with a mini bar of layers pellets and water. I closed the castle door and as she clucked in fury I chivvied Mrs Boss and her coterie off the roof and into the hen house. There definitely had been a fight as Mrs Boss wasn't keen to enter the nesting box. She clearly hadn't seen the removal of Barbie minutes before.
Once I knew that all the keets were safe inside the hen house I shut the door to guarantee that all birds would be dry and warm when I returned in the morning.
At 8 am I was greeted with a baying (chicken type) and a cheeping (keets). I opened both doors. As Barbie shot up to the nesting box, the hens and keets rushed out to the run to eat the wild bird food that I had scattered.
At lunchtime I pulled on my gardening gloves and set up the broody coop with fresh water and food. Barbie kicked a bit but was easily transferred to the coop. I watched for a while as Mrs B and the keets stood outside the cage and in true French Revolution fashion flung insults at poor old Barbie. Instructions for making a simple anti broody coop are here.
This evening, I strode down the garden immediately. The hen house roof was bare and so was the broody coop. Barbie had escaped.
The warring hens and the keets were happily in the hen house nesting box together. I examined the broody coop door. Barbie had forced the wooden clothes peg locks.
Unfortunately she has to return to jail. She is putting the other hens off lay. And I want the keets to learn to roost in an enclosed space. This will keep them out of danger when they are adult.
Danny has already found me two sturdy bulldog clips that will hold the door firmly. Being broody with no chance of a brood wears a chicken down. The wire floor of the anti broody coop will make it hard for Barbie to settle. Within a few days her comb will turn from pink to red, indicating that she is no longer broody and she will be released back into the run.
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