Adding to Our Flock

A few months after our first group of chickens had settled in, we decided that maybe it was time to expand.  We were averaging several eggs a day throughout the winter and wanted to increase our output.  We found someone locally who was selling Golden Comet chickens, and we thought five would make a lovely addition to our Barred Rock group.  Golden Comets are a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a White Leghorn, and are daily layers just like our Barred Rocks.  The chickens we were bringing home were young and had just started laying – perfect!  We bought our Goldens one evening, brought them home, and plopped them in the chicken run with the rest of the chickens.

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The Golden Comet chickens are a pretty orange color.

Now, let me just say that expanding our flock was a major learning experience.    Immediately adding our new girls to the existing group was a major error on our part.  For the sake of biosecurity, you should always quarantine new chickens for a period of time prior to introducing them to your flock.  This is to ensure that your new additions aren’t carrying diseases that they may pass to the rest of the animals.  Once you’ve made certain that the new chickens are healthy, you can introduce them – slowly – to your existing chickens.  We were very fortunate that no health problems emerged and now we know better.

Besides ignoring quarantine recommendations, we also weren’t prepared for the fights!  As soon as we put the Golden Comets into the chicken run, Rodney the Roo and the biggest Golden Comet hen started brawling and feathers went flying.  The Barred Rock hens complained loudly and pecked at the new arrivals.  Four of the Goldens huddled in a corner, besieged by the Barred Rock hens.  This is actually normal as the hens work to establish a revised pecking order in the newly expanded social group, but it was still disconcerting to watch.  Thankfully, it was close to roosting time so the chickens settled onto their perches for the night.

The next day, tensions were still high but the brawling had stopped for the most part.  We decided to keep them cooped up for a couple of days and let them sort things out.  Our Barred Rocks were not happy at this prospect as they were not only used to having the whole place to themselves, they were also used to being allowed to come and go during the day as they pleased.  Lots of scratch, meal worms, fresh fruit, and yogurt helped make up for this terrible transgression on our part as chicken parents.  The Barred Rock hens never failed to inform me, loudly, how displeased they were at the current situation.  I imagine “this is an outrage,” “I want to speak to the manager,” and “You’re getting a terrible Yelp review!” were possible utterances but I don’t yet speak fluent chicken.  Rodney and the biggest Golden Comet had struck a truce, and the rest of the Goldens started venturing out of their corner.  Egg laying stopped as the Barred Rocks went on strike.

By the fourth day there seemed to be some sort of uneasy peace and the loud, fiery complaining had decreased to a more restrained, ceaseless bitching from both camps.  We decided to let the birds forage for a few hours close to bedtime and let them out of their chicken run under close watch.  The Barred Rocks filed out of the run in their usual orderly fashion and loosely stuck together as a group.  The Golden Comets, on the other hand, seemed to not only be intensely curious, but also fearless, or perhaps just very dumb.  They walked off in different directions, ignoring the safety in numbers rule, and also strayed far from Rodney the Roo, whose job it is to keep watch on the skies to allow the girls to forage safely.  It was a bit of a hassle to keep the Goldens somewhat contained and to herd them back to the coop, but thankfully all chickens remained accounted for after the first excursion.

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Treats make it all okay in the end!

Gradually, we increased foraging time, hoping that the new chickens would learn from our older chickens on what to do and where to go, but it didn’t quite happen that way at first.  The Golden Comets kept wandering off by themselves (and still do sometimes), which left Rodney frantically scampering around, trying to keep an eye on all his girls.  Rodney quickly realized that these new additions were, in fact, ladies, and all of the sudden he was very interested in keeping them close.  Egg laying started back up for the Barred Rocks and the Goldens started laying eggs as well… except they were laying anywhere and everywhere.  While our Barred Rocks were used to making use of the nesting boxes and were laying on a schedule, we were finding Golden Comet eggs on the ground, in the shed, by trees, in bushes, under vehicles, and tucked in piles of lumber.

Eventually things settled down and the Golden Comets adopted the Barred Rock routine.  They even started laying in the nesting boxes.  While there is still some bickering, the group generally gets along now and forages together, and Rodney is a happy and busy boy!

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