Right now, I have several poultry factions to manage. I have the pekin hordes in the Palace, Vera and the chicks, Betsy, and the new girl, Smudge. Letting them all out together is out of the question. My pekin ladies are most put out at the arrival of more micro chickens, and are unlikely to roll out the welcome mat if given opportunity to get within duffing distance. Betsy is trying to be friends with her pal Vera, but Vera's mothering instinct is strong and she's extremely defensive of her young. Throw the new pullet in to the mix, and I expect things would get ugly very quickly. So, I am juggling garden time.
The pekins get to free range in the morning. They rampage about the place, digging up my plants and attempting to gain access to the youngest's birthday present, an 8ft trampoline. So far the enclosure has baffled them, but any day now I expect to find Maeve sunbathing in the middle of it. She watches the children bouncing, and I see the wheels in her tiny chicken brain squeaking around. Some time around lunchtime, I entice them back to the Palace grounds with a treat.
Once they are safely locked away, I free Betsy and Smudge. Serama integration is nothing like as fearsome as Pekin integration. They have postured at each other a fair bit, and there's the occasional feather pull, but they seem to forget that they're supposed to be fighting for their position in the pecking order and end up mooching about the garden together or sunbathing. After several peaceful and companionable minutes, one or the other remembers they're supposed to be fighting to the death. But it's all very half-hearted, and I'm quietly hopeful that they'll be able to live together within the week. At the moment, they are still housed seperately at night.
While the micro chooks get to know each other, I put Vera and her babies in the run. They are now four weeks old, and still keeping schtum about their possible gender. They bumble about the run, eating things and chasing each other while Vera sunbathes. She occasionally squawks at them as if correcting some undesirable behaviour, but on the whole she lets them get on with it. Vera and I have obviously read the same parenting books. After a few hours, I return Betsy and Smudge to their secure units, and I allow Vera to free range with Hoppy and Sylvie. The chicks are getting very curious now, and I have to stay out to watch over them. It's amazing the amount of trouble a tiny chook can get in to. I have so far had to rescue the chicks from a lavendar bush, a tennis racket, a stray sock and a shallow puddle. I will be incredibly glad when they reach a less labour intensive phase of development. Vera tends to just squawk at them a bit, show them food, and then leg it to the dust bath. She has been an exceptional broody, but I think her patience is beginning to wane.
When my nerves have had enough, the serama family are returned to the run, and Betsy and Smudge released again. Smudge and Vera spend some time attempting to duff each other up through the weld mesh of the run, which seems pointless to me but they seem to be enjoying themselves. Hoppy and Sylvie watch this with interest but no apparent alarm, which makes me wonder if it's a training exercise. Eventually, Vera gets bored of butting her head against the bars, and assumes the position. A sunbathing serama is an amusing sight. One skinny yellow leg is always pointing skywards. If the sun is out, they all seem to congregate together, one leg aloft. It's like a mini forest of twiglets.
Now, for a bit of self promotion. If you've come to this blog as a new keeper, or you're a more experienced poultry person, I would heartily recommend the Poultrykeeper site. There is loads of information about common poultry issues, advice about ailments and even a monthly 'What to do this month' bit by yours truly. It's definitely worth a look.
Now, back to micro-managing a garden which has to hold 7 pekins, 5 serama, a trampoline and my sanity.