Today I reflect on my chicken raising experience. Chickens and their pecking order make for quite an event!
On June 20, 2016, much to my overwhelming excitement, I got to meet and bring home the rest of my egg laying ladies. My two at home were about to gain four more sisters. The long awaited day of being united with the rest of my flock finally arrived after a packed weekend in Minnesota of wedding photography and Maisy birthday festivities with my family.
These four ladies were part of my dad’s science class at the end of the year. His goal was to give the kids something fun to do to keep their minds off of being in class when the summer breeze started trickling in through the windows. Their task, to train them to go through mazes. Sounds like fun to me! Anyways, because these ladies were a part of his curriculum I had to wait to bring them home until school was out.
After a long day of driving home I hurriedly unpacked the car so as to spend time with my new chicks outside for as long as I could before it was time to put Maisy to bed. I started the introduction in safe quarters. I left my existing two girls in the lower part of the coop and dumped the other girls just outside it. They sized each other up in close proximity while also having a safe barrier to keep anyone from getting vicious.
Hens survive in the wild by keeping strictly to a pecking order. Any time another chicken is to enter the flock the whole hierarchy is overturned as everyone has to vie for their spot in line again as the newbie finds it’s place. The pecking order is so important to survival because, in the wild, it’s how chickens stay hidden from predators: if everyone knows their place in line they don’t draw attention to themselves by fighting over who gets the first pick in food.
My ladies were going to have to go through this season of establishing hierarchy and though I anticipated it I was struck by how immediately motherly I felt towards my new girls as my existing girls clearly, immediately, decided they were going to be at the head of the flock even if it meant they had to take it by force. Interesting dynamic: on the one hand, the four new girls outnumbered mine 4 to 2 and were a week and a half older; on the other hand, the two originals were in their territory. Apparently territory trumps all.
For the rest of the evening I kept my eye on all the girls and did a number of things to reintroduce them to each other. I sat outside with all six wandering about. Happy and Boo kept to themselves munching away at anything and everything with the other four hung out pretty close to me, making friends with me.
Then it came time for nightfall. I went out to check on the chicks and found Luna (the only newbie to come with a name) cheeping frantically all by herself in the chicken run. Apparently she found herself at the bottom of the totem pole and was entirely too freaked out to be in the dark outside but was also too nervous about being surrounded by the other chicks. I, in turn, found myself in a kind of panic. I felt a pangs of compassion for that sweet, little chickie girl and spent the next hour scouring the internet for something to ease her in better. The verdict, I had done everything not only right, but super right and had to let nature take it’s course from there. I checked on the coop one more time and discovered that Luna finally made it up into the coop and found a safe spot to sleep. With that I finally headed up to bed and fell asleep praying for peaceful sleep and safety for all of my chickens.
In the morning I woke to find everyone alive and unharmed and I was overjoyed! Moral of the story, I am fiercely protective of those in my care, whether chicken or child. I think that’s pretty cool.