Today was the day we decided to integrate the recent arrivals and the hens that had been poorly but had now recovered enough to be part of the main flock. Integrating 2 groups is bad enough, but we wanted a single flock and to have all the hens outside together, so this was the start of 5 groups becoming 1!
The Hazels, The Whites, White and Rose (11 hens) have been in the barn to this point, in separate areas. The Hazels – 6 of them – are getting along well in a large run and apart from Jasmine having a bit of a limp, are in good shape. The Whites are getting on okay, Larkspur is still limping a bit and Clematis is improving every day, but still can’t stand for long periods. Rose is in an individual coop as she’s still afraid of all hens that come within 2 metres of her, though she does seem to get on with White, who herself is in an individual coop after a recent illness.
Our plan is tried and tested, but not with this many groups! We’ll build a temporary run right next to the existing run, all within the electric fenced area, so that all hens are close to each other but physically separated by a fence. The new temporary run will be sub-divided to accommodate the 4 groups if necessary. The different groups of hens will spend parts of the day in their allocated run then be let out into the larger area, and the other group will be closed in their run. This way all groups are in contact, but physically not able to do damage to each other, and they’ll be like this for at least 2 weeks to get used to each other.
The day went well and as The Hazels, The Whites, White and Rose had been in close proximity in the barn, the larger outdoor space meant that if there were any squabbles, then the hen being attacked could run away. It helped that it was a warm day, as the hens spent part of the time sunbathing and it was probably too warm for a lot of fighting! We swapped groups around and the 11 hens settled okay in the new temporary run, whilst the incumbent hens had the use of the whole area around them. We sectioned off the back of the main run, to be used as a sleeping area for the 11 hens – again they’re very close to the incumbent 18 hens when they’re in their part of the run, so that they’ll get every opportunity to get used to each other.
We also brought Ruby and The Rubys into the main run. We can’t integrate them with the others yet as the pullets are still too small, but they enjoyed their first full day outside and quickly mastered the art of hole digging and dust bathing!