The Pecking Order
When the girls arrived, we thought we knew what the pecking order would be. Ethel, who looked the healthiest would take the top spot and poor Doris with her pale floppy comb and bald head would be at the bottom, everyone’s whipping boy.. errr…girl.
For the first week, there was no evidence of a pecking order; clearly they were all preoccupied with getting used to their new surroundings. Over the last few days though, we have watched the pecking order take shape. It’s hard to watch and not get involved – I always want to tell them to stop pecking at each other, stop bullying and all play nicely together. That’s not how it works though, is it? :’)
It has only taken about four days to fully establish who is in charge – and it’s Doris! She gets first go at the food when it’s newly filled, first peck of any treats and woe betide the hen who tries to eat a worm if Doris doesn’t have one of her own.
And who gets to be second in command? Mabel. And she’s relishing it. With Doris mostly keeping Mabel in order, lest she tries to oust her from the top spot, Mabel takes every opportunity to keep Ethel in check. Poor Ethel. She only has to look at Mabel in the wrong tone of voice and she gets her beak pecked. Maybe it’s no surprise then that Ethel is the one I can rely on for a cuddle.
We’ve started making plans for more space for the girls too. I’m going full boho-twee mash-up. There’s plenty of room in the yard to give them the same amount of space again. It will be cordoned off with a sage green picket fence and they will be able to come out of their run and straight into their open air run during the day. I’m planning on growing some herbs and lettuces in there for them to eat at will. The surrounding area will be prettied up too, with some brightly coloured hanging things and some nicely painted fence panels. And the rest of the yard will be turning into a little Moroccan hideaway to sit in!
I don’t know if it’s because they have lived in a crowded barn for most of their lives, but we’ve had endless trouble with the food and water containers. With our other chickens, we had the standard plastic dome feeder and waterer and they worked fine. We had the same this time, but soon realised that they were kicking dirt and sawdust into the water, so they couldn’t get any water. We changed over to a different system which feeds water into a cup as they peck at it, so there’s constant fresh water and it’s raised above the ground. So far so good.
Then we had trouble with the feeder. They kicked dirt in that too, but it also filled up with rain, turning some of the food to mush and blocking it all from filtering down. So we changed to a trough feeder, which seems to avoid both of these problems. Unfortunately, they turn it upside down a billion times a day! On to the next solution ….. which should arrive tomorrow.
I mentioned in my last post about the girls that we could see some of their lost feathers growing back. You’d never know it today. Poor Mabel has started to regrow the feathers on her back, but hens also have a moult at around 18 months, and as quickly as she’s growing new feathers on her back, existing feathers are falling out. She does look a bit of a mess, bless her!