Making Friends – Tales from the Hen House

The time has come for the first step to integrating our two pairs of birds. You may remember that we adopted two rescue hens (Elsie and Rita) who were around 18 months old at the same time as buying two Cream Legbar pullets (Barbara and Margot) who were around 12 weeks old. Because of the difference in age and size, they couldn’t be housed together for the safety of the Legbars and in any case, the two pairs needed different foods. So we housed them separately, with their runs next to each other so they could get to know each other a little.

That was seven weeks ago and so I decided it was time to take the next step and let them out to free range together; they’ve been taking turns until now. With the grass cut short again, there was plenty of space for them all, so I tentatively let them out. I let the little two out first, and put them on the lawn to explore, before opening the run for the rescues, who needed no persuasion to come out and explore.

For the first few minutes, the two pairs kept their distance from each other but then Barbara & Margot decided to explore the bit of grass that Elsie was eating. Elsie wasted no time in showing them who was in charge, with a quick and decisive peck to each head to make her point. There was a bit more of this over the next half hour, but then they all settled down and shared the space.

At bedtime, they all went back to their own spaces, and then this afternoon, I let them all out again – this time just opening up their runs and leaving them to it. We’ve checked on them during the afternoon and all seems well. This is great news. And I have to admit that I love being able to look out of the kitchen window and seeing the chooks strutting around the lawn. Barbara and Margot seem to have developed a comical walk where they walk in sync and turn together, and even put in a little hop now and then!

We’ll need to continue like this for some time, because until the younger ones start laying, they need different food. As soon as they start laying, we can integrate them all properly. Size is no longer an issue – at 19 weeks old, Barbara and Margot are almost as big as the fully grown Elsie and Rita.

I can’t wait til we can put them all together properly as one flock!

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