I can’t remember how much I’ve said about the new chickens – the flock having been reduced to a single survivor by foxes earlier in the year, we picked up two little Serama bantam hens and a cock from blog friend Compostwoman to join her, as well as half a dozen fertile eggs, which we slipped under Rose’s broody bantam (herself one of my chicks from a couple of years ago) The three chicks we ended up with were growing well at about 10 weeks old when one of them was found dead one morning. It had been perfectly well the night before. Worse, another one died that night. There wasn’t a mark on either of them, nor the survivor, who looked fine. We were quite sure it wasn’t a predator or bird flu, nor anything else we could think of and it remains a mystery.
We hadn’t yet known whether they were boys or girls but were pretty sure they were all the same sex and were keeping our fingers crossed – however, Rose decided to bring the little remaining one into the house and a couple of days later he started to crow. So, still sad and upset as we were, we reckoned that three extra cockerels would be a headache – as they were in Rose’s garden and she was looking after them, they’d rather become pets, more so than I’ve allowed them to become when I have chicks as sometimes it’s necessary to cull surplus cocks. Upsetting as this is, it’s inevitable as they may well fight to the death sooner or later.
All this was about three weeks ago and he’s very pretty little cockerel with a charming nature. However, she realises that he’d rather be with other poultry really, but her chickens chase him.
Back to my henhouse – my friend Lynn, on hearing about the death of our bantams, offered me a couple of her young pullets, which she’d hatched from eggs she’d been given. So we went over to pick them up in June – at about four months old, it was apparent what sex most of the young ones were and she very kindly gave us two that were certainly female. They are also big – the eggs were, she was told, bantam eggs but these hens are large! They were also very nervous and my bantam gave them the runaround, especially the rather worried-looking brown one. But the two newbies have started laying eggs now and have gained in confidence, with the result that one of the Seramas, a tiny black girl called Jet, is now bottom of the pecking order.
So that’s the situation at present and I don’t want it to continue. Jet is a dear little hen and not easily distressed, but she’s being chased from the nicest food and she’s spending most of her time alone. So I came up with the suggestion that the 40-foot long greenhouse that’s their main run should be split in half with net – it’s the green net that’s used for shading purposes, so it’s not very see-through – and the two big hens, the original bantam and the older Serama cock live in one part and the two Serama girls and the young cock, which Rose has named Clawd, in the other. The bigger ones will also have access to the original hen house and I’ll bring through some nest boxes and make a sleeping area more enclosed for the little ones. Rose’s three bantam hens and the cockerel will live in their run in her garden, of course.
LT and I talked it through and he suggested a couple of improvements on my plan and then I spoke to Rose who will miss Clawd in the house because he’s cute, but also appreciate not having to go round with paper towels all the time and not hear him crowing early in the morning. He’s been staying here for a couple of days and he really is sweet, but at least he sleeps in the porch. Wince the gardener was very pleased to hear we’d got a Plan – I love your Plans, he said – and set about implementing it at once. Apart from the annoyance of finding that a lad I’d employed while Stevo had a broken collar bone had used all the staples in the staple gun and not bothered to let me know, all has gone well and there were enough staples there to put the net in place, and the job will be finished tomorrow.