As the Chicken Nuggets continue to grow we have been gradually working on bringing them together with the Big Girls over the last few weeks. We have a small grow out pen that we made to house the Nuggets until they are old enough, read – big enough to fend off pecks from the bigger birds, to be placed in with the big Girls. We have the pen out in the chicken yard so everyone can see and hear one another but it keeps the babies out of the way of those large pecking beaks.
At night we have been covering the Nuggets pen with a blanket, for 2 reasons, I made the decision to move them out of the house before they were fully feathered as I just couldn’t take the noise, mess or odor in our tiny house any longer. But as they were not fully feathered I worried over the cool nights. The other reason for the blanket was to help them settle down at night, the first night out there they cheeped and cheeped. All that racket was causing a stir among the older girls as they were trying to settle in for the night. As soon as the blanket went over the Nuggets, they quickly settled down for the evening.
The last couple of nights I have chosen to set the babies pen right up next to the Girls run and then only cover 3 of the sides, leaving the side up against the run open, visually, to the run. My thinking on this is that I want the Nuggets to start cycling their day the same as the Girls. I want them to see the sun rise naturally and not wait for one of us to come out and “wake” them. The Girls are in their run all day while we are all gone to work, so this way all 8 can be as together as possible without supervision.
In the late afternoon, early evening, whoever returns home first goes out and lets the Girls out to free range. Once the Kiddo and I are home we chase the Big Girls out of the chicken yard, locking the gate behind them. Then one of us stays in with the Nuggets and let’s them out of their pen. Those two are too cute, they come running out, flapping their wings, bombing one another. They get as far from their pen as possible before they begin scratching and dust bathing. We have been scattering some scratch along a section of the chicken yard fence line to encourage all 8 to come together and safely scratch together. As posted in another post, they have shared treats at the fence line as well.
Last night I felt it was time to begin proper face to face introductions in the chicken yard. I will admit, we tried this the other day and picked the wrong one to start with, I picked Isabelle, our big, beautiful Silver Laced Wyandotte who happens to be the most obsessed with the babies. BAD idea. Our babies were left uninjured but traumatized. Ok, fast forward a couple of days to last night. Let’s try this again, only this time, let’s start with the 2 Barred Rocks (one at a time of course), as they are the top of the pecking order and show little to no interest in the babies. First one in, Ricky. Perfect, no major interest, no major concern. The Chicks even venture up to inspect her first. Then they wander off in separate directions to scratch and scavenge. Ok, next up, Fred. Again, no major interest or concern. The girls even come together a bit to scratch. Wonderful!! Let’s add another, in comes Cluck, one of the two Easter Eggers. She showed more interest but no pecking. Wow, are you serious? Ok, come on in Raven the Silver Laced Wyandotte. She’s a bit on the bossy side. She didn’t chase after the Nuggets but had no problem establishing herself above them with some quick correcting pecks, but nothing vicious. We brought the other Easter Egger, Swainson in, she could care less. Finally this left us with none other than the big bully, Isabelle, who pulled some feathers the last time we tried this. The babies remember this too, as they run the other direction when they see Isabelle coming. Sure enough, she is obsessed, manages to get them cornered and requires some correcting from me, the Big Boss Lady. After a couple corrections from me to Isabelle, everyone eventually settles down and spreads out to scavenge around the chicken yard. The Kiddo and I cannot believe our eyes, The Girls and The Nuggets are doing GREAT! Woo Hoo!! This is so exciting and reassuring. I only wish my camera on my phone was working so I could document the bonding. Maybe my camera will work tonight as we will venture to bring them all together in the same manner.
They only spent maybe 20 or so minutes together before the Nuggets started to tell me they were ready to go back in their pen, eat dinner and settle in for the night. Those two are adorable. They have bonded to us so nicely.
When either the Kiddo or I walk around the chicken yard the babes will follow along. I also found them standing under my feet when feeling uncertain about hanging with the big girls. Continuing to have too much fun with our new flock.