Sunday, September 6, 2009

Introducing new hens to the pasture flock

So I bought a few hens from the 4-H kids at the Washington County Fair this year. I paid $114 for 23 hens, and they gave me 3 sacks of feed for kicks. This comes out to $4.96 per bird. Minus the 24 dollars in feed, and that's under 4 dollars per hen. That's cheaper than I can raise them and that's not even including time.
Here's the hens after I picked them up. It's 10pm and they're in the back of the truck which is out in the pasture which is soppin wet from all the recent rains
Here's just how sparse the hens had got out on pasture. There's 3 that aren't in there because we've got them working on other tasks at the house up the holler. The Pyrennes pups have stopped all our predator losses. The chicken wire keeps barnstorming owls from killin the hens at night. That was an 8 hen lesson by the way. There's 18 hens and a rooster in the pic. They're used to be 45 and a rooster
Feta (on left) and Squirt who followed me down to the pasture. Squirt isn't fond of the pups, they get on his nerves.

The owl screen made putting the hens on the roosts difficult. So first I put the hens at the edge of the coop. They can't see at all at night, so they stay put.

I then climbed inside the coop and placed the hens on the roosts. I do this at night for two reasons.

1 - If I introduce new hens during the day, they're seen as intruders and beaten down and chased away. If the old hens wake up and gradually see the new chickens, they'll be seen as new flock members. There will be the expected roughing, as the new pecking order is laid out, but no one will be pummeled to death.

2 - this helps the new hens see the coop as home. More than likely, they've been raised in a tiny coop and would spaz out and run away into the woods and open jaws of a coyote if tossed in during the day.

I finished up by surrounding the coop with some old defective poultry netting, to help keep the new hens in. I'll remove it in a couple of days when I feel that the hens learn the coop is home.

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