So, alongside my day job as a PMO Consultant, I also have a rather large menagerie of pets (and a very understanding husband). This includes 12 chickens, all ladies. They are a mixture of breeds and are ace. Our chickens include a gentle giant Cochin called Tiny, three Silkies which are just complete bundles of fluff, a beautiful Laced Wyandotte called Bob, a rather wonderfully named Rumpless Araucana; Sharon, a regular Blue Hen adventurously called Bluebell, a tiny but sparky bird called Duchess, and some beautiful plump Pekin Bantams.
The leader is one of the Pekin girls called Greg, she is at the top of the pecking order (yes that’s where it’s from!) and is last to go to bed once she is sure everyone else is tucked in. Complete characters. Whilst they do love exploring and checking out new things, and who knew what excitement checking out a newly exposed bit of ground could bring, they are very much creatures of habit. They all wake up at the same time, they take themselves to bed at the same time and often in the same order. As soon as they get up they all head to the food dispenser and then they all take a drink together.
If we want to introduce a new chicken into the family, we have to go with a minimum of two. The flock does not like strangers and they can be quite aggressive to newcomers. If there are at least two new birds, they have each other as company and will often stay together as close friends going forwards.
The new chickens will often bed down away from the other chickens for at least the first night. We have to find the new chickens and put them into the coop at night for a few days until they get used to the routine and take themselves. There’s always a settling in period.
Last weekend there were big changes in the chicken paddock. The coop was just too small for the flock and it was time to expand. There wasn’t much room to spread out at night and there was only enough nesting space for one chicken at a time for laying eggs which sometimes caused friction.
After some good research and hunting, we chose the perfect new coop with two nesting boxes, loads more space and, most excitingly, perches which the birds didn’t have in their current coop set up.
The coop was set up in the garden, in a new position that increased their play area, on a large stand which provided them additional covered area underneath for when the weather is bad (chickens don’t like rain). The old coop was removed for cleaning and moving on. Another shelter was removed also, it was all looking rather marvellous. We were so excited for the chickens.
When the light was gone in the evening, we went out to the garden to make sure the chickens had all found their way to their new manor. We weren’t daft, we were expecting some resistance. We did expect there to be a few of the birds to be huddled up in a corner somewhere.
We checked out the new coop and were very pleased to see that three of the chickens had made their way to the new coop, two of them were even using the perches. But the others…. Of them no sign.
Torches out and chicken hunt underway. There remained two plastic shelters in the area, one of them is no bigger than a small cat box and has very occasionally been used as a quiet place to lay eggs. It’s been in the garden for some time. I had a quick look, just in case. The box was crammed with chickens….
There really would have been more space left in a tin of sardines. Really not sure how they all got in there. I finally pulled 8, yes 8, chickens out of the box including Tiny the giant chicken. They were not happy about being taken out of this tiny cramped space. The birds had chosen to squeeze themselves into a completely inappropriate box that was familiar to them rather than check out the new chicken palace.
All of the birds were put manually into the new coop one by one, and a few of them were put in several times as they kept jumping back out into the garden and return to, well, anywhere else that they recognised.
They were finally shut in overnight and all piled out, happily enough the following morning. They all went to have breakfast together, just as usual. Last night a few more made it to the new coop and, having lost access to the tiny box, the others had all made themselves comfortable next to the rabbit hutch which has also been there for some time, even if they had to be outside.
They will settle into their new home, slowly but they will get there. They will become as attached to this coop as they were their old one and will all go to bed at the same time, to the same place and probably, in the same order.