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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Our Lovable Mutts

Back at the end of November, I mentioned our "mutt chickens" and that we increased our backyard chicken flock from 3 to 5. This came as a result of being offered two free pullets from a good home, right after I had come to the realization that because our original three chickens are the same age, they will most likely molt at the same time this summer. And I don't want to be without any eggs during that time (since chickens don't lay while they're molting). Thus, enter "Goldilocks" and "Cinderella." (Can you tell I've got young daughters?--but I thought that was better than "Ugly Stepsisters.")

Before the pullets arrived, I knew not to expect much in the way of beauty and hoped I wouldn't regret adopting them. But now that they're finally growing out of the "dinosaur chicken" stage, they're coming into their own and actually are pretty in their own way.

Even if that weren't the case, though, I have been impressed by these two "mutts." They're much friendlier and more interested in people than our 3 purebreds and are really sweet. They also seem to be smarter. The first day we had them, I was crouched down in the chicken run taking care of something and Goldilocks jumped up on my knee, obviously wanting to be petted. Needless to say, I was quite startled but delighted. Both she and Cinderella still love to be petted, which is not something the other 3 particularly care for (even though they're gently and regularly handled). Whenever I'm near, they warble at me and cock their heads, like they're trying to communicate with me. The other chickens mostly try to ignore me.

As far as introducing new chickens to the existing flock, that was pretty difficult for a long time. I started the two new pullets in the chicken run in their own cage, so they'd be protected from the others and they could all get used to each other's smells, etc. A few hours later, when it seemed that everyone had calmed down and were doing okay, I let Goldilocks and Cinderella out. From then on there was regular bullying and bloodletting. It was heartbreaking to watch and a couple times I had to shew the three older chickens into the coop and close the chicken door, to separate the two groups and give the new ones a chance to recover and have some breathing room.

Red was my favorite chicken before we got the new ones, but as queen of the roost, she was the worst behaved toward Goldilocks and Cinderella. I was seriously appalled at her violence. The new chickens soon learned to just stay out of the others' way and they did a lot of running. I was worried they wouldn't get enough to eat because they only felt safe perched up high, while the food is down on the floor of the coop. Over time--and I'm talking at least four weeks--they all adjusted. It's only been in the last couple weeks that the new chickens have been allowed to scratch in the run with their peers, rather than stay perched up high on the door. I am greatly relieved, to say the least.

With the addition of light in the coop for a couple extra hours in the evenings (as I mentioned here), we were back to getting 2-3 eggs a day, even on the coldest days--until recently. Now that Goldilocks and Cinderella have started laying, too, we're getting up to 4 eggs a day!
Goldilocks ruffled her feathers during this photo shoot, as if to show off for the camera.                                                        

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