The new chicks on the block, Gladys and Hilda, have been with us three weeks now. It was always my aim to have an integrated flock by the time that the weather turned, but the speed at which the new girls have been accepted is astounding. The two factions eye each other warily, but the usual violence is conspicuous in it's absence.
I went out to shut the hens up for the night at dusk yesterday, and had a mild panic. Hilda and Gladys were not cosied up in the garage. I hunted around the garden by torchlight, looking for a glimpse of Hilda's rubbish camouflage. Finding nothing, I opened the coop. Celia is still nest bound, and growled at me grumpily. The other five ladies were arranged about the perches in that very exact way which relates to the pecking order. And right in the back, huddled in the corner, were the two newbies.
I closed the coop door, and retrieved my jaw from the top of my wellies. My 14 week old baby pekins had voluntarily gone to bed with the big girls. I couldn't quite work out whether this was a stroke of awe inspiring courage, or extreme stupidity. It was entirely possible that Maeve would wake up bright and early and eat them both for breakfast, barely stopping to cough up a feather. Not to mention how the mighty Mille's might respond to these tresspassing young upstarts. Moulting makes a girl have cowbag tendencies.
As I stood there dithering, the ever tolerant husband stuck his head out of the back door and told me to stop standing in the garden with a torch like a loon and come and drink my wine. This seemed like a brilliant idea, so I locked up the Palace and trudged back to the house.
Five minutes later, I trudged back out, opened the pop hole and made sure that there was another feeder and drinker in the run. I then checked that no one was using Gladys as a pillow and poked maeve a bit until she hissed at me, just to make sure she wasn't ill. Crossing my fingers that all homicidal tendencies would stay well hidden, I left them to it.
This morning, the girls got themselves up for breakfast. When I came downstairs, the five non-broody ladies had finished their breakfast and were lounging about the run. Taking a deep breath, I opened the coop. Celia was still pancaked on her imaginary eggs, and mumbled a bit at being disturbed. The newbies were sat on the perches, unharmed. I checked the coop for stary feathers that should still be attached to young bums, but found none. No feathers, no blood and apparently no big deal.
They are not a fully integrated flock yet, but it's very close.