Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, take my new hens for example; since my last post I’ve been really busy integrating hens (which can be a nightmare at times), unfortunately I’ve also had to nurse a very poorly one. Myrtle, my Bluebelle hen became ill not long after I got her, she had to be quarantined and needed meds from my vet, the good news is she’s slowly on the mend. Myrtle hasn’t been with the others for a long while and was leaning towards being bottom hen when she was, sadly, her chances of a smooth and peaceful return to the flock are minimal. The others have sorted their pecking order out and have bonded well, they will reject Myrtle now and view her as an outsider. The trouble is, she wasn’t with the flock long enough to form any firm friendships or find her place in the pecking order, instead, she’s petrified of being anywhere near them. The others will give her a hard time and stop her from eating etc, perhaps even cause her serious injury. I’m not being over dramatic, as much as I love keeping chickens they can be really cruel at times.
I’m going to try something else to suit Myrtle’s temperament and needs. Once she’s fitter I will have a go at integrating her with my old ex battery girls. I’d never normally advise integrating a lone hen but at the moment I haven’t got many options left. My old girls are very nice natured birds, they hardly squabbled when I first got them and there has never been a single peck since. I couldn’t tell you who is top hen and who is bottom, that’s how laid back they are. Due to battery cage injuries to their legs, two of my old girls won’t chase Myrtle, the other girl is fitter and would be the only real challenge. Being docile by nature, I’d be very surprised if Myrtle attacked back if she were to receive any pecking. I’m sure there will be some ‘argy-bargy’, but I’m confident that with a lot of supervision from me and plenty of mealworms I can bribe my gentle old girls into taking baby Myrtle under their wings. Eventually.
It’s a matter of baby steps, slowly, in the right direction. I will let you know how it goes.
It’s all been going on here.
The two new hens that joined us in May were not in the best of health, that’s battery farming for you. They have been very poorly indeed, lots of worry, lots of medicines and lots of finger crossing lately. They were suffering from a number of illnesses, the first one to come to light was brachyspira, becoming more common now in laying flocks. Just when things were calming down and looking promising for the pair, one of them was struck down with coccidiosis. Off her legs and passing blood, she really was on death’s door. More testing and meds from my saviours, Retford Poultry and once again we were on the home straight. Then, just when things were on the up, an egg drama reared its ugly head almost cruelly finishing off the other hen. She became egg bound which then burst inside her. I intervened in the end and helped her ‘deliver’ the mangled mass of shell which was well and truly stuck, managing to get it all from her in one large piece while she passed the yolk contents. Very messy indeed but also very necessary, many egg bound hens die.
I can safely say these ordeals have certainly added a few grey hairs to my locks and ribbons to my chicken CV. But most importantly, I have not been put off chicken keeping or keeping ex battery hens for that matter. They are little fighters and have such a zest for life, grabbing each new day by the throat and really going for it, despite already being weak and ravished by the battery system from which they came. A few months down the line and they both appear to be making a very good recovery, once again beating the ‘system’ and that makes me smile inside.
They have been introduced to their new friends and all went well, not too much fighting but of course being armed with meal worms really does help matters! Chickens are calmer as night draws in so sometimes it is easier to introduce new chickens by putting them in the coop with the others to sleep, then removing the new hens the following morning whilst keeping them within sight but out of reach for a few days, repeating the night-time process. Chickens are like us, they recognise faces and seeing the new hens regularly will help with the introductions. Once a new pecking order has been established the chickens will all be happier. When you are satisfied that fighting is minimal and not serious, they can be left together permanently.
I’m certainly no chicken expert, I keep a small flock of ‘damaged goods’ hens packed with big characters that help me learn and gain new experiences all the time – not all bad either, most of the time they have me howling with laughter. Ex battery hens can DO that, they are infectious. I’m happy to share with others if it helps at all (not the howling) the knowledge and experience that sometimes manages to wedge its way in. Hopefully the two new hens, Becki and Hope will stick around for a while longer yet. Got to give it to them, they certainly enjoy life even though it has thrown a few cruel punches at times.