June 29, 2013

The Peeps are Producing

Life with the Peeps has definitely been similar to a roller coast ride. 
Eggs, attacks, coops, lots of happenings means lots to share.
     When given a choice of good news or bad news first I always take the bad so that the last taste is good.  So with that in mind I'll share the bad news first.  Last week we lost our prettiest chicken, Sloan.  We're still not sure what happened, have we ever known, but something either fell onto the coop, or was trying to get into the coop and succeed in crashing down part of the wired cover.  With the cover gone Merida and Sloan flew out.  There were feathers left behind in the coop so maybe there was a bit of a skirmish before they flew the coop~ again who knows.  What I discovered was a broken coop with two Peeps missing.  It took almost 10 minutes to find Sloan, she was hiding between our compost bins.  She lost a lot of feather and had a gash mark on her back.  After settling her in a safe box I continued my search for Merida.  She hid herself between the oak tree and our back fence. Pretty smart hiding spot as she practically blended in with the fauna around her.  She lost quite a bit of tail feather but had no injury so I settled her in the box with Sloan.  We checked on them a short  while late only to discover Sloan passed away. 
    That night we wrapped Merida in a blanket and encouraged her to eat.  With a bit of TLC she seemed strong enough to return to her coop two days later. Little did we know how cruel chickens can be to each other.  Within moments of being placed in the coop Merida was being attacked by Carlotta and Bambi.  The were pecking at her head actually pulling out feather.  Poor Merida, who used to be the head of the flock, didn't even fight back.  We immediately got her out of there.  Turning to the best online resource for chicken owners, Back Yard Chickens, we discovered how common this behavior is.  The chickens sensing that Merida wasn't exactly the same honed in on her weakness and took advantage of the opportunity to change the pecking order.  For the next week we kept in the crate but had her right next to the coop.  This way they could interact but safely.  When we did finally re-introduce Merida back into the flock they did attack her but not as viciously as before.  One or two pecks from both Carlotta and Bambi and it was over.  She actually kept her head lowered, almost subserviently, the first few days but all is well now.
     During this period we discovered that Carlotta and Bambi have started laying eggs.  Carlotta's are brown and Bambi's are blue-green.  We weren't expecting them to lay for another 3-4 weeks but can't argue with mother nature.  Carlotta's eggs are fairly consistent in size.  She prefers to lay her eggs outside, early in the morning.  Bambi's eggs have gone from medium to slightly larger than a robin's egg.  She prefers to lay her eggs in the early afternoon, and she hasn't quite decided on her laying spot.  
      Knowing that they will all be living together in just a few weeks we thought it would be time to start integrating the Peeps and the Itty-Bitties's, their coops have been side by side for over a month.  After watching what Merida went through we've been trying different approaches.  Ginger is the biggest so we thought we'd try her first.  Nope that didn't go well as Carlotta and Bambi saw her as their latest victim.  Then we thought maybe there would  be safety in numbers so we put all three IB's in at once. The best way I can think of to describe what this looked like is to imagine the Keystone Cops being chased by the Three Stooges (though Merida really didn't partake too much).  Adhering to advice we tried this at night just before Roost time.  Bambi usually leads everyone into the coop and fusses until everyone is in.  The IB's would not go in for anything.  They all started roosting on the pole in their yard.  This bothered Carlotta to no end.  She kept coming out pacing back in forth as if trying to get the IB's to follow her.  After almost an hour of her going in and out, pacing and squawking at them she finally gave up and went to bed.   I awoke the next morning to find the IB's were out in the yard, happy as could be.  I didn't know they were small enough to fit through the opening on the top of the gate.  
     I don't know what came over me yesterday morning but I thought it would be nice to let the chickens in the garden, chaperoned of course.  I first took over the IB's and they were so funny.
I placed them between the hay row and fence, hoping they'd scratch the dirt and I'd get some weeding done by proxy.  Nope they wanted to explore the hay bales.  It didn't matter what they had to climb over or under they loved the hay.  Seeing what a good time they were having and thinking it was neutral territory I decided to bring over the Peeps.  I honestly thought if they spent some "free time" together it might help towards their integration. Sounded good in my head. What happened after a few moments of "crap you're here" clucks was self segregation.  The Peeps like being behind the hay bales and actually did some weeding and the IB's preferred to stay among the tomatoes and beans.  Seminole discovered a flower-pot, weeded it and planted herself there the entire time.  Alternating between giving herself a dust bath and just sunning.
     We still haven't fully integrated the two mini-flocks but time is pushing on.  We plan on having their final large coop finished by the holiday weekend which is but 9 days away. Maybe more garden time will help but they're going to have to figure out how to play together nice as they're all moving in together real soon.
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