The recent summer weather has been welcome for many reasons and, in particular, it has benefitted the hens. Unlike many birds, hens do not have waterproof feathers so when it rains, they prefer to stay under shelter. For young, keen to explore, bubbling with energy little chicks, that’s like being stuck in playpen with no toys.
The last week or so has been much drier and the chicks have been out and about, foraging, scoffing and having a lovely time. They have also been growing and are now bigger than blackbirds. As each day passes, they get a little braver and can be seen scuttling further and further from their mother, Mrs Mills Junior (MMJ). They are also looking a bit scruffy as their adult feathers are pushing through the fluff they were born with. You can see tiny feathers poking out through their tails and also their developing wings. There’s nothing they like better than stretching their wings out in the sun.
Exploring far and wide, they come into contact with the rest of the flock and it is great to see that they are already accepted. Anyone who’s introduced new hens to an existing flock will know what I mean.
Cherokee the cockerel likes to keep a watchful eye over them. MMJ is more tolerant of him than some of the other hens who are sent away if they get too close.
Given our hens have pretty much given up laying, we are looking forward to the next generation of layers growing up and once again filling our kitchen with eggs. That will take the pressure off the older timers who can then live their lives out in gentle tranquillity and luxury.
At night, they still use their nursery run and coop. We put them to bed around 6pm. Soon we will leave it open till sunset and see if MMJ moves them into the main hen house.
The nursery run has been a huge success and in future, we’ll use the same approach for broody hens. We’re already in the planning stages for a small, fenced off area that can keep the sheep at a safe distance and provide room for multiple nursery runs.
Although it’s hard to tell the girls from the boys at this age, it’s looking like four girls and one boy. Time will tell, but we’re hopeful.