As I think I mentioned in an earlier entry, we got four rescue hens in June. We have kept those apart from our existing hens because hens are not very welcoming to new members to the flock. In fact, they will most likely try to kill them. There’s all sorts of stuff on the web about how best to merge new hens, but we have worked out what (seems to) work for us).
The hens have been co-existing in adjacent runs for the last few weeks. This way, they can see each other and get to know each other, but with a barrier that prevents physical contact, so no pecking or outright attacks. As I also mentioned before, we have separated our mother hen and chicks into a separate run as mother hen was getting very aggressive.
Anyway, we have been letting one set of hens (the greys) out in the mornings and the rescue hens (the browns) out in the afternoons. Then Mrs D came up with the brilliant idea of leaving the cockerel out all day. Cockerels don’t attack new hens, they welcome them with open wings and our cockerel was delighted to have 4 new ladies. And they took to him big time (they’d never met a cockerel before!).
This weekend, we finally let them all out together (except mother hen and chicks – the chicks are still too small and could easily get through the stock fence and there are dangerous dogs next door).
It seemed to go OK. At first! With things looking good and no all out physical attacks, we headed in for lunch. Plus I had a bedroom to paint. However, when I popped out to check, I found 3 of the browns huddled in their house. They looked a bit scared.
Today, we let them out again but stayed in the garden with them. We were prepared – we had the hose ready and set on jet. When Petal (bottom of the grey pecking order but the most aggressive to new faces) launched her first attack, she was hit broadside by a jet of water. That distracted her. In fact she only attacked one more time and after getting another jet of water, she calmed right down. The same went for Bim, the other grey – two interventions and then she settled.
So, all in all, a successful day. We will keep this up for a while with the goal of ultimately opening up the adjacent runs into one large run and letting them out unsupervised.
Then, just the mother and chicks to re-integrate. You can see them in the photo below (on the left, watching on.