Friday, October 23, 2015

playdates in the garden

Jonathan had a technology conference in Bangor.  He spent his days discussing iPads, and dongles, and enthusiastically tweeting and then, because his pesky wife texted him that there were some lovely sounding chickens, hand raised by children for a 4H project just a short drive from where he was, he loaded himself -- still in his conference-appropriate clothes and with his name tag still on -- into his Subaru and headed to the farm.  And bought us four chickens, pullets, actually, to replace the hens we had lost to raccoons.  

Arriving home afterward, a bit scarred by his three hour drive south with four chickens in the back of his car with no crate or bedding or planning ahead for such an adventure, he was, understandably, a bit ruffled.  And I think he had temporarily lost his sense of smell.  But we set those ladies up in the barn for the night and went to bed.  Next morning, Elliott went running out to meet them.  

Jonathan had used his three hours of alone time with these new pullets wisely.  He had named two for the characters of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, of course.  So now we have Penelope and Cassiopeia, the Black Australorps, and then Pumpkin and Rusty, named by Elliott.

For a few days, they were carried from the barn each morning to the fenced garden where they spent the day outside free ranging and then were collected (oh, how I wish I had pictures of this silliness, but you try chasing a chicken while snapping frames!) and returned to the barn for the night.  

Meanwhile our existing flock could see them through the fence but could not get to them.

The kids have been taking the task of keeping them socialized and comfortable with humans quite seriously.

Introducing new chickens to an existing flock is no easy task, we have found.  And though we have a flock of chickens that we raised from chicks, they have some trauma issues and they are, well, chickens.  And pecking order is real, folks.  So, we began making introductions.  Supervised visitations if you will.  Playdates in the garden.

Here comes our existing flock, toward the new pullets, approaching them for the first time.  Please insert the theme from West Side Story here.

There was blustering and chest thrusting and feather fluffing and looks that were definitely askance.  

And some behaved better than others.  And Tiny, perhaps because of her recent run in with molting and her resulting compassion for the misfortunes of others, stepped in a few times and let the older hens know that

Marauding grey chicken approaching from the bush.

If I walk between you, I will show you just how boss I am.

Can we both peck here?

Man, those migrating geese can FLY!!


Hawk!  Make like a Zinnia.

Tiny:  Follow me ladies, and let's give those younguns a break.  Why yes, thank you for noticing, I do have feathers on my backside again.

Mean girls in the zinnia patch, Pumpkin relaxes enough to take a dirt bath.

And playground monitor Elliott decides they all need a snack for low blood sugar related temper issues.  He heads for the sunflower heads.

And the mature hens headed for Elliott's sunflower bed, the freshly turned earth full of worms.

Tiny was now, social dynamics having clearly shifted in the yard, the new leader. Don't worry.  Those feathers will grow back.

And Elliott decided that pulling down the sunflower patch was almost as much fun as playing with the chickens.

While Elliott's eyes were temporarily directed elsewhere, Sirius was still watching all the funny business.  Yes, yawning. But his substantial girth alone is a hawk deterrent.  It's an all family activity after all.

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