The chickens have been with us for a week now. Here are a few of the things that I've learnt in the last week...
- When we got the chickens we had about a dozen to choose from. Of course being professional farmers and really knowing what we were doing (not!), I chose based purely on looks! The very first chicken I fell in love with was the gorgeous black and white spotted one, Betty. In the last week she's proven to be the smallest, most timid and very obviously at the bottom of the pecking order. I keep telling her she was the first preference, but it makes no difference, she still stands back while the other two bicker it out for food priority, and when it's cold, she'll be the one on the outside of the huddle facing the wind.
- They are really just babies, are suddenly without parental guidance and are clearly feeling a bit lost and scared. There's obviously a mixture of nurture and nature going on with them. When night comes for example, they have a clear instinct for the need to be somewhere safe, but are struggling to work out that their house and roost should provide that. So they huddle together in the run and each one tries to get underneath the next as they would have done with their mothers. It becomes a writhing circular mass of worried feathers. We had to start "assisting" them into the house and then shutting them in there so that they couldn't come out into the run again. After a few nights of this they've started going into the house a bit by themselves during the day, so it seems they are starting to get the hang of it as a safe place, although haven't yet managed to put themselves to bed.
- They eat constantly and LOVE grass! They are now getting brave enough to peck food straight out of our fingers as we push it through the wire of the run, and get really excited when it's grass or leafy treats.
- We spent the first week worrying about what would happen if they accidentally escaped. The advice was to keep them in their house until they recognised it as home so that they would go back into it at night if we'd let them out to free range in the garden. Yesterday we decided that they seemed reasonably familiar with it, so opened their front door and stood back...nothing... We shooed them toward the open door and encouraged them to head out... nothing... We turned our backs and pretended we weren't looking... nothing... We then spent the rest of the afternoon worrying that they'd never go outside!
- This morning we tried again, picking up the two leaders and putting them outside. Betty quickly followed, not wanting to be without her pals, and they headed straight for the closest garden bed (the one with the vegetables in it of course!) and had a long, happy dust bath. They LOVE dust baths!
|Will we or won't we???|
|The first dust bath - just far enough away from the vegies...!|