Friday, September 13, 2013

Chickens: New hen's first egg, Loss, Bad Habits

I figured it's about time we had a big ol' chicken update. Our original flock (pictured right) was three barred rocks, all hatched close to the same time. They got along ok, with only a little bit of pecking and hardly any bullying. Things were good.

The alpha hen, Mohawk, was always broody. Sometimes going through multiple broody cycles each summer. Seems like whenever it got hot, she got broody. Eventually that stress took its toll and Mohawk died.

With the old top hen out of the way, the former bottom hen, Cheepers, took over. The middle bird didn't seem to mind the change in management, but I'm sure she missed her old buddy. She stopped laying eggs the day Mohawk died...

Then at some point we had the brilliant idea to buy a new hen. So we brought home Cinnamon, a 14 week old golden-laced Wyandotte. This was about 3 or 4 months ago. Here she is a few weeks ago, in a "extra vivid" picture my younger daughter took for a report at school.

We did our homework, and followed the general advice for introducing a new bird to the flock... Quarantine. Then adjoining pens, then finally slipping the new gal onto the perch in the middle of the night.

The top hen wanted none of that and chased the new bird relentlessly. After a few weeks, they got along just barely well enough that we figured we could try to keep the new bird. This went on for about three months.

Then disaster struck.

Our middle hen, Mathilda, died. She got sick and then lethargic and then even sicker. It was sad and nothing at all like Mohawk's clean quiet death.

Now we're back down to two hens. The good news is that Cinnamon laid her first egg yesterday (so tiny!) and even with the chasing and flapping, the alpha hen hasn't drawn blood or started plucking poor Cinnamon's feathers.

Here's a picture of three eggs. The leftmost is Cheeper's regular egg. The rightmost is Cinnamon's first egg. Note the darker color. The middle egg is Cinnamon's second egg. We hoped that by getting a different breed of chicken, we'd get slightly different colored eggs so we could tell them apart. Sigh.

The bad news is that now Cheepers is taking on the role of rooster, climbing down off the perch incredibly early each morning and doing her best (and loudest!) rooster impersonation. She's still laying eggs, though. What an odd time.

Now we're not sure what to do. Cinnamon is still very afraid of Cheepers. Cheepers is waking up the neighbors at sunrise. We're allowed to have three hens here, but honestly, I'd kind of like to start all over with three peeps like we did the first time. I'm not sure getting another hen or pullet is the right move here.

1 comment:

  1. In spite of seeming so common, chickens have the most fascinating social structure. I'm always interested in reading the experiences of others in this regard. And I have to say Cinnamon is a stunner! We have the Silver Laced now, also pretty but not so colorful.