Flock Swaps

by - January 24, 2018

I was warned that this chicken thing can get really addictive. 

The eggs are great. Planning and building the coop was fun. Problem solving is challenging.

What is addictive is walking across the yard and realizing two chickens are following at my heels, I stop, they stop and scratch around in the dirt. I walk, they walk. I stop and turn around, they scratch at the dirt. I have a fan club now thanks to a treat called Crackleberry Nugget Treats. What is also addictive is hearing the panicked peeping of the newest addition at dusk, then hearing the panic change to happy chirps as I place her in her snugly corner with the Silkies as she settles down for bed. 

I should start off this story by sharing that Joe does not like Silkies. When we were picking out pullets for our first flock, we had selected four lovely birds, and then I just had to have a Silkie too. My youngest son agreed, and Luna quickly became his favorite. We don't know if Luna lays or not, but there have been a few strange eggs during the past few months that we usually blame on Luna. We have never actually seen her in the nest box. We've actually never seen her anywhere except on the ground. She will climb the ramp/ladder into the coop, but she stays on the floor of the coop.

Well Luna is one of a kind in our flock and is often left by herself. As the seasons changed, I grew very concerned that Luna slept in the corner of the coop all alone. I read sweet descriptions of how Silkies sleep in a pile and felt so guilty that Luna didn't have a pile. In December we went to the flock swap to buy one more Silkie, which was Vader. However, it is highly recommended to add two chickens at the same time to an existing flock. It is also recommended to add the same size and preferably the same age as the existing flock. Smaller, younger birds make easy targets. So we got Betty White for Vader. Then, Vader died. Joe buried her in an undisclosed location not in our yard, so I wouldn't accidentally dig up chicken bones later when I was moving shrubs around the yard, as I am prone to do. After it seemed Betty White was going to pull through, I contacted our chicken guy who offered to replace Vader at the next flock swap which wasn't for another two weeks. During that time, I continued to bring Betty outside when the weather was good, then I'd get worried and bring her back inside at night.

I initially really wanted another Silkie for Betty White, but leading up to the January swap, Betty and Luna had been spending the week in what I'll now call the "nursery" rather than the "quarantine". I had nursed Betty White back to health, and once the snow began to melt, I partitioned off part of the run for the Silkies to spend some time protected from the rest of the flock so they could relax and hopefully bond. I finally quit force-feeding Betty as she proved she was going to eat on her own. Luna who usually followed the flock out into the yard seemed content to remain in the run and have no competition for the scratch grains and sunny spots. The day before we were to pick up another chick, I realized Betty White might not need another Silkie her age. I even considered not getting another chick at all.

The next flock swap approached, and the night before, Joe was insistent on not getting another Silkie. Joe had not yet gotten to pick out a single flock member let alone name one, and we browsed the pics from previous flock swaps and read about interesting breeds. Just before 9 am the next morning, we loaded up the car with a diapered Betty White in her bin. The chicken guy  greeted us and showed us possible replacements. He pulled out a Black Copper Marans who already had a nice copper ring coming in, and we all shrugged our shoulders and said, "Sure." There was a lot of debate on the way home about what her name should be. Joe chose "Penny".

Penny may be the smallest member of the flock now, but she may grow into the largest, which is great because the Tweedles and Ruby are total butts. Even fuzzy-headed Luna couldn't resist getting in a few pecks on that first day. But Penny is a total sweetie and has taken right to the Silkies. They spend the days in the nursery protected from the rest of the flock, and Betty White seems to enjoy her new role as the middle child. When she's not eating, Betty stands around really tall. I'm still worried with that amazing posture she might be a he, but so far there has been no crowing, no streamers, and no long wattles.

Penny gets really worried around bedtime if she isn't tucked up with the Luna and Betty in the coop. Eventually she will want to roost, but for now she's part of a pile. That pile is under the roost bar, so in effort that they not become a pile of poo and the littles have some protection from the bigs when they march up the ramp soon after for bed, I've propped up some spare boards. Luna squeezes in between the wall studs, Betty sits on a small log facing the door, and Penny gets put between them. 

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