Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Chooks & Extended Yard... and a few issues.

But not the kind of issues you'd expect, when blending in new chooks to a current run.  The most recent chapter in the chook story goes like this.  About 4 weeks ago, we were down to 4 girls after losing Bacon (Isa).  Left were; Nicoal (Australorp), Comby/Combless, Spots and Snow White (all Leghorns).  I was making the decision on what breed to choose for the new chooks.  We were adding to the chook family mostly because the laying was almost non-existent for the last 6mths or so, so I figured they were getting on a bit but also because I thought it would just be good, and the kids were looking forward to it too.

Mud (Isa) and Comby (Leghorn) in the new 'chooky garden' part of their run

I ummed and arred and considered the debate between Isas vs Heritage breeds.  In the end, where I went to get the new girls from, the Isas seemed the friendliest... so breed in itself wasn't a factor.  The two new girls were named Mud and Sunrise, very pretty chooks actually.  Sadly, for reasons we can only guess at, Sunrise did not make it to sunrise the next day.  I was hoping that in the dark and some peace, that Sunrise would perk up overnight but I buried her the next morning.

Mud and ? checking out the 'chooky garden'

So we were left with Mud, on her own and not behaving very chooky at all.  We had built a second yard for Mud and Sunrise that butted up to the other one, so they could see and 'get to know' each other while still being separate enough.  Now with Mud on her own I figured it would be harder for a lone new bird to join the other four when they were eventually merged, than it would if there was a pair.  So I decided after a few days, to get another chook to keep Mud company.  I figured that Mud, who seemed quite shy, would be settled enough (in terms of 'territory') to accomodate a slightly larger new chook (the newcomer) and was hoping to get an Australorp, with the plans she would be a bit 'motherly' towards Mud and hopefully help the pair of them to mix well with the other girls when they joined yards.  I was also hoping Nicoal would teach Mud some chooky ways, when Mud joined the 'old girls'.

Mud (apparently not camera shy) and the original roost, nesting box to the right

Once home, I also observed, and am annoyed that this was in hindsight (was trying to do too many things at once while picking from the Isas) that Mud looks like her beak had been trimmed and that she was not very chooky.  She was not at all sure footed on hay, didn't know what to do when presented with a freshly dug worm and generally in my limited experience didn't seem 'chooky'... I concluded that I was a little dubious about her origins and treatment and that I would not be buying chooks from that place again.  Maybe I'm not right, maybe Mud just had a beak injury and was trying to get her head around the new place, maybe that's all it was but I wasn't okay with having doubts so I tried elsewhere for the newest chook.

dog kennel sleeping roost, water and new plant.
So I tried another place that seemed to have good reviews, with the intention to not buy at all if I wasn't happy when I arrived, as the previous place had also been recommended to me.  I organised a time to go and was all set.  We went there on the way home from abseiling so were contemplating names along the lines of 'Carabeener', 'Abseil' lol and others.

Keeping the water up high, and near the lemongrass to water it

Arrived... only to find that there were no Australorps.  Darnit.  Okay... next option... 20 week old Leghorns.  Hmmm... smaller chook, younger but would be eventually bigger than Mud... but younger so that might work in terms of Mud being the 'boss' of the twosome yard.  ok, done.  She was named 'Everest' then 'Avalanche' and then back to 'Everest' again.  As soon as we got her home, Everest was most definitely a chook who knew how to be a chook - drastic contrast to Mud.  Scratching like there was no tomorrow, in the dirt, checking it all out, dust bathing you name it.  No worries about settling in she just made herself at home.  I was hopeful that this good chook-example would also be helpful for Mud.

transplanted lemongrass with 'paver protection'

When we got home, we decided that having the four girls in one yard and two in the other wasn't fair in terms of space.  I also had noticed that Nicoal (Australorp) was the only one who hadn't tried to peck at Mud through the fence.  So we put Nicoal in with Everest and Mud.  Nicoal was not bothered at all by either of them, and let them alone so long as they didn't want to peck in the spot she was pecking in.  Fair enough.

So far so good until around sundown, Everest decided she wanted to be in the other yard and I spotted her balanced hi-wire style on top of the edge of the chook wire dividing the yards - as in, tall chook yard wire fence!  so I took her down and put a branch up there.  Back up she went in one jump n flap.  hmmm... I guessed she wanted the roost in the yard next door (though she did have options in her yard) so in the dark, Brooke and I swapped over the girls.  Everest and Mud and Nicoal into the other yard and the 3 Leghorns; Snow White, Comby and Spots into the 'new' yard.  It worked well for the pecking order and the roost as some of the girls prefer the nesting box at night.  Whew.  Only thing now was if Everest could manage that, she could probably get over our yard fences via trees and vines and ... that might not have a good outcome.

Everest under one of her 'hidey branches'

Cue Googling for how to clip a wing.  Spent a bit of time on the net and the next morning, done.  So far so good and no escapes (we thought about calling her Houdini but Everest fits since she likes to be up high!).  Now clipping a wing is not something I wanted to do but I figure better that (and done without hurting her) than her end up in the mouth of a dog or cat...

the tin tunnel.  Another great hiding spot and for keeping out of the rain.

At the time of posting, it had been three weeks of the new and the old girls side by side in the same yard so today they were all let out together, the new girls first until they got their place in the garden set and then the 'old girls'.  They were out and about together while I took away the divider between the two yards, cleaned out the yards again, did some chooky landscaping and made sure there were plenty of hiding spots.  I kept the original nesting box  we converted from another dog kennel (as we can access it from outside the yard to collect the eggs), the original roost and left the second dog kennel in place (where it was in the temporary 'new chook' yard), just raised it higher and added the ladder.  I kept the half tin tunnel and the two branches that I'd put in for Everest to hide under.  Water and feed bowls cleaned out and refilled.  Fresh straw in the nesting boxes and then they all went back in.

So far so good.  A few pecks and a few squawks but nothing major and fingers crossed it's going well.  Then I oiled their legs for good measure and tonight I'll withhold the water and do the worming tomorrow morning.  That's another topic (natural vs chem worming) and for another post!  The challenge will be when Everest gets bigger, how to tell her apart from Comby.  At the moment Everest is a skittish but very curious 'kid'.  Mud has picked up in the 'chook habits' department and maybe it's just she's settling in but I like to think the other girls are setting good examples for her to follow and learn from.  See how they go... so the pics throughout this post are of the new yard and the girls checking it out.  I hope they like it and I'll do a 'meet the girls' post soon.

1 comment:

Tricia said...

Glad they have all settled in together. We recently joined our new and old hens and I was so relived and happy to see them interacting OK. They are still trying to work out the pecking order which is interesting to watch. We're also looking forward to finally having eggs again. Enjoy :-)

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