Hens Getting to Know Each Other

D its still nervous of chickens, it's the whole #bertiegate thing that happened a few years back. For those of you who have never had a Sussex White cockerel, let me lay it on the line for you, they are a bad tempered cock and they will attack their own reflection in a puddle of stagnant water. They are, in simple terms, as mad as a box of frogs. Every time we mention Sussex White cockerels to other poultry keepers they all go white as a sheet or Sussex White. They are beautiful birds but barmy. This Sussex White attacked D, it didn't help that D ran away and that Bertie chased him but Bertie is gone, he went for us one too many times and was consigned to the great chicken pie in the sky. Our other cockerel, a lovely black Silkie called Gene Simmons, is great with the hens (as we will see in a moment) and wonderfully soft with us, he has never attacked us and regularly comes for a stroke. Today though we need to introduce the new chickens to the old ones, they've been watching each other for weeks from the two runs but now we have to bite the bullet and see what happens. You should never put two flocks together immediately for health reasons (one flock could carry a disease that could kill them all) and because they can, and sometimes do, fight to the death. You should isolate new chickens for at least two weeks before introducing to the main flock so you can monitor them for illness. You should then allow them to see each other and hear each other for another two weeks before placing together.


The introduction starts out well with the new chickens, Lola and Princess Layer keeping to their side of no chicken land. Mrs Cluckerbuck and Gene scratch into the earth for bugs after being kept inside during a phase that we call, worming the unhappy chickens; if looks could have killed over the last week we would be six feet under with them scratching above. We regularly let Gene and Mrs Cluckerbuck out as they are great weeders.

Chickens, Life on Pig Row

Then there is the moment that Princess Layer tries her luck with Gene: Well, hello there! We have never seen Mrs Cluckerbuck pin anything down but she is on Layer faster than we can film and a few pecks later it is clear who is the boss. Lola is more like George from those old cartoons, as in: What's up, George? To say that she is slow is an underestimation. She is slow and fluffy. She knows her place. She doesn't even look Mrs Cluckerbuck in the eye when she comes near, she merely hits the ground; if she could roll over and show her belly, she would. Then a strange thing happens, there is a bit of ruckus, Layer comes back and tries to protect Lola (they have been room mates for a while) but Mrs Cluckerbuck is having none of that, and neither is Gene. Gene wades in and breaks it up, crowing at them both, flapping his wings as if to say: Back off, back off now or face the force of Kiss turned up to eleven. God, gave rock 'n roll to me and I'm protecting it. The hens scatter. Gene goes back to Mrs Cluckerbuck but drops in on the new two hens to make sure that they are fine. You can tell he is weighing them up for a more intimate visit. He has taken a shine to the shape and size of Lola. Gene is, as his namesake, an alleged randy little bugger.



It quickly becomes clear the pecking order is Gene, Mrs Cluckerbuck, Princess Layer and poor old, slow Lola. It is at this point, whilst I am cutting the hedges and Carol and D are placing the clippings in the run with corn hidden beneath for them to have a little fun with later, that Carol announces that we could get another three. This has gone up from the two we initially decided on, we have a basket full of eggs in the kitchen, nearly thirty last time I looked but what the hell, they are good weeders and I do have a lawn to get rid of in the orchard. That would take me weeks to clear, these lot could do it in seven days. Also, as I have pointed out, cockerels needs around six hens each to remain happy and not frustrated. There is nothing worse than a frustrated cockerel, which is what we suspected Bertie was.

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