The Cottage Smallholder

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Update on our five new hens. One week on.


Brittany, Vienna and Venetia. What is Vienna saying to Brittany?

Brittany, Vienna and Venetia. What is Vienna saying to Brittany?

So how are the five new maidens settling in? It’s been just over a week now and there are still two definite camps. The four older residents and the five new girls. With little fraternising as yet. Zebedee (Roman Empress style chicken) and teeny Beatyl the cockerel have a pretty secure “ancient style republic”. Chickens are not keen on even a whiff of democracy.

There have been some surprises. The new gang like to stand on one leg? This bemused me for a while, epecially when they were all standing in a line one one leg. The smallest hen – Paris the white leghorn that I thought might be bullied is turning out to be the bravest of the Newbies. She actually dares to peck the morning corn just a few inches from the dastardly Zebedee. Z is turning out to be a bitch of the first order. She’s even snapping at members of her gang of four.

The Oldies rush to stand at the front of the run when I appear with the corn treats in the morning – the Newbies cower at the back of the Ken Doherty Day Centre – over 30 feet away. They observe me with elongated necks and bright unblinking eyes.
“The pink giant chicken is here with her corn weapon.”

Paris - looking back when I called

Paris - looking back when I called

Paris hopefully responds in Chickenese. “But it does taste good. Have you tried it yet?”

I sprinkle the morning corn around the chicken run. Surely the gang of four can’t patrol every corn station. But they do. The new hens are nervous – the sprinkling of corn nearby frightens them.
They rush to hide behind the chicken house. And then they are dive bombed by Zebedee as she rushes past pecking corn like a mad chicken shaped vacuum cleaner.

I know that they will take a while to settle in and trust me and the rest of the flock. But I hate the fact that they feel too scared to savour the treats.

Vienna – the beautiful Cambridge Blue hen has gone up to roost right from the start. The others are ferried by the Fiona Hen Taxi Service from the Day Centre to the chicken house. Dr Quito loves this brief evening sojourn – armed with a torch we trudge down the garden and he bays like a tiny wolf from the other side of the wire.
“Finally she’s hunting and it could be chicken for supper.”
His disappointment is almost palpable as I gently place each hen inside the safety and warmth of the hen house. Eventually we make our way back to the cottage. Where a different supper is bubbling away on the stove.

I like this opportunity to hold and pet them as I move from Day Centre to Chicken House. After the first alarmed shriek they settle down quickly, held close. Paris went up alone to roost last night. Tonight Brittany – our beautiful brown and cream hen had joined her. So now it’s just Florence and Venetia to move. These are the hens that will eventually lay the brown eggs. Worth every taxi trip and more.

Let me share a secret. Empress Zebedee doesn’t know that Vienna, Florence, Venetia and Brittany will all grow much larger than her in time. Her Empress days are numbered and it’s just a matter of a few months. Unless she makes a few good friends now she will be quickly pushed way down on the chicken pecking order ladder.

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  1. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Reference “pecking order”….you might be surprised! Our smallest hen rules the roost – she is Mrs Hitler incarnate.

    As you’re still having problems at “bedtime” it might be worth, when you next get some new POLs, introducing them directly into the henhouse at dusk rather than putting them on the ground in daylight.

    We’ve always done this & never had a problem: the established hens assume the newbies have always been there whilst the new girls wake up in their quarters & just seem to assume that is where they always have ergo always will, sleep. Makes for far less unpleasant arguments in the hen pen!

  2. Although I’ve read your chicken articles, for some reason tonight this entry reminded me.

    My parents kept chickens, and it was my job to check them twice a day. Clean and refresh the water, and give them the scraps. They also had a supply of “Layer’s Mash” which they could access any time. I had to go to the merchants and buy that – “56lb of layer’s mash please” did not go down well with those queuing behind, as it was kept in an adjecent warehouse.

    But the chickens loved the baked potato peelings. These were cooked (at the same time as our food) because my father had a fear of Potato Eelworm, but the chickens were not backward in coming forward to grab this feast. I served it on a metal dish large enough for all of them – never had a pecking order problem.


  3. Thanks for the update on the new girls which I am reading with interest. I’m interested in all things chicken these days. No closer to owning any though!

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