October 17, 2010

New Hens

We had chick that turned out to be a rooster. He was made into fajitas. Then we had a hen that decided to start eating eggs. She was summarily executed for cannibalism. That left us down two. So I decided that we should purchase three more. Yes, I said three. We built the coop and run for about 10, so 8 would be good.

But I didn't want to raise chicks again. Chicks have to be kept warm and their space has to be clean frequently. And when they are half grown, thus adolescence, they fight to establish their pecking order (yep, that's where the saying comes from.) All a pain in the butt. So, I was looking for full grown hens. Craigslist has proven to be a great resource for a hobby farmer. Lots of people were selling hens and a myriad of other farm animals and supplies (including my post to trade lambs). I found a guy who lives about 30 miles north of us with a dozen hens all between 12 and 18 months old. He was asking $15 each.

Friday after work and school, Jordan and I head out to pick up three new hens. (Jeremy was hunting so he missed the fun.) The people we were going to see live up on Green Mountain. It's been a long while since I've driven a road that curvy - hairpin turn after hairpin turn. It took me a half an hour longer than expected to get to the house. (Made me feel less irritated by our very late sheep purchasers.)

The view from the house was amazing - right down into the Columbia River valley. But the view was obscured by a 10x20 chain link chicken run covered in half-a-dozen tarps in various stages of coming unraveled. With the lovely rancher house, well kept yard and tree-top view, the chicken run wasn't just a sore thumb. It was an infected, gangrene thumbs that needed to be amputated. I'm guess, though I don't know, that this was a major reason for them deciding to sell off all the hens, two coops, and chain link fence.

The couple selling the hens were very nice. They had named the hens after their many grandchildren. Jordan instantly like the woman. They chatted it up while I got the boxes from the car that would transport the hens. (The thought of three hens flapping around the car as I barrel down I-5 makes me giggle.) I told Jordan to pick her three favorite. She chose one speckled, one all black and one that could best be described as cinnamon-colored hen.

We got them home with no fuss, but it was late and dark. I had read that one way to introduce new hens was to put them in the coop at night. Apparently the old hens would then accept the new ones. So we put the new hens right in the coop. And we went to bed.

Next morning I went down to check. The new hens were out of the coop, up in the furthest corner of the run. The old hens were still in the coop and I could see one peeking around the corner of the door. So maybe thinking they would just be instant friends was too much to hope for. The old hens were enticed out by scratch, but they kept their distance. All day the old hens occupied one corner of the run while the new hens occupied another. No fights, but avoidance.

Tonight I checked after dark. All the hens are in the coop and on the roost. They are sharing space without much trouble. So I guess all will be well.

I keep thinking -
Higgledy, piggledy my black hen
She lays eggs for gentlemen
Sometimes nine, sometimes ten
Higgledy, piggledy my black hen

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