The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Roof top protests and The Great Escape

Mrs Boss and keetsWhen 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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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cooking Ninja,

    Over the past few years I have discovered that chicken behaviour is complex. Like us they need affection and companionship. It’s sad when it doesn’t work out. Mrs B used to be at the bottom of the pecking order. Now she has the keets, Barbie has unwillingly taken her place.

    I love my chickens but hate the politics.

  2. The Cooking Ninja

    Love your Mrs Boss and her brood story. Didn’t know that life being a chicken can be as complicated as us humans. 😉

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi KJ

    Chickens are complex that’s why I enjoy keeping them! They are soothing too. I actually enjoy cleaning their house out each week.

    Your meme was fascinating, thanks for having a go.

    Hi Celia,

    I do hope that you (and Phoebe) have a go at raising a brood next April. We have had such fun with the keets.

    The new locks on the anti broody coup have withstood the ingenuity of Barbie so far.

    Hi Sara,

    With Barbie in prison, I found that Mrs Boss and the keets had settle in the nesting box at dusk. Which is great. Hopefully they will be in a routine before Barbie is released.

    They like hanging out on the hen house roof in the day, which is fine.

    Thanks for the tips on rain and snow. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Hi Kate,

    Chickens are interesting and fun. They do have personalities. I feel sorry for Barbie. She became the lowest in the pecking order when Mrs Boss was in the castle and now she seems to be staying there.

    Hi Pat,

    The keets have had a big impact on the other hens. It will be interesting to see how they develop. The white keet, Lightning, is the bravest fastest keet and has been from the word go. It will be interesting to discover whether Lightning is male or female!

    Looking forward to reading your meme.

  4. Wow and I thought only us women suffered from PMT!! Sounds like they are all keeping you busy there. Love reading about their little lives. A bit like a mini chicken soap opera. Thanks!!! Going to work on my tag today!

  5. Between your blog and Celia’s, I’m learning what life with hens is like. Now I have a much better understanding of what a broody hen is … poor Barbie. They really do have their own personalities.

    Please post more!

  6. farmingfriends

    Hi Fiona,
    What a carry on the hens and keets are having. It is always the same here. Guinea fowl naturally want to roost although all my guinea fowl roost inside on a night now. They are creatures of routine and will soon automatically round themselves up and go into the hut. When I am training the guinea fowl I herd them into the hut and after a few days they know where they are going and if they are ready to retire for the night it is easy to herd them in. If I have to put them away early on occasions and they are not ready to go into the hut, then I too can chase the guineas round and round the hut. With regards to rain – the guinea fowl don’t seem to mind this too much and will shelter under a tree or hedge if it is raining heavily. I have to warn you now though that they hate snow and will not even walk on it!
    Great to read all about your hens and keets.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  7. There’s nothing so determined as a broody hen! Found our Phoebe snuggled down on Ruby’s egg this morning – I’m not standing for that, told her to ask again next April and I might let her be a mummy!

    Your description of the roof-top protest made me smile – our temporary wire run, used when the hens need to be confined , is called ‘Highpoint’ (for those not local to this part of the world, it’s the local prison!)

    Hope order is soon established among the occupants of your hen house. And Barbie snaps out of her broody-moody soon.

    Thanks for this episode – spot on!

  8. Who knew chicken’s lives were so complex? Hopefully, they will all find a way to get along.

    Thanks for the tag. I have put up a response. I hope you can visit.

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