It’s a gorgeous sunny day – we’ll be reaching highs in the 50’s today. Our little handicapped Welsummer hen has been getting increasingly lonely and bored in the brooder cage, so we decided we’d try putting her out in the coop today. We’ve also been concerned about waiting for too long and having issues with her integrating back into the flock, and I was particularly wary of the White Plymouth Rocks (we suspect at least four of them are cockerels), because they’ve been the most aggressive and, well, just plain nasty.
We brought her out in a transporting box I made from a fancy shoebox with a hinged lid, and she rode calmly to her new home. When I put her down on the bedding and opened the lid, she saw the other chicks and made a noise I’ve never heard before. It sounded like…delight. She hopped out of the box and over toward her feathered brethren with such tenacity that I realized I’d feel guilty bringing her back indoors to wallow away by her lonesome.
My wariness toward the Rocks was well justified – they are at least twice her size, and they immediately started bullying her. I understand that they have an instinctive need to establish a pecking order, and even though she lived with them for the first month, she was a newcomer as far as they’re concerned. But they were really hurting her, and she was panicking. She was getting around to her food, water, and even the bowl of chick grit without any trouble, but they were body checking her like bona fide NHL enforcers, and she has no way to fight back. I’ve been really quite irritated with the Rocks behavior anyway, and had already sworn to never get them again. They are just rowdy, rude birds, and instigate chaos in our coop. We had already made the decision to cull all of the Rock cockerels once they are big enough – which won’t be long, at the rate they are growing! So we made the decision to load up all six Rocks, including two we suspect might be hens (but who are just as nasty tempered) and bring them back to the brooder cage here in the house so as to separate them. They’ll be shipping off to Camp Fridigdaire in a couple of weeks.
We just went back out to the coop to see how the flock is doing, and it’s a pretty interesting transformation. Everyone is much calmer. Quieter, even. And they are all napping contentedly together in a chicken pile, even Handi-Hen. She’s still considered a bit of an outsider, but everyone is adapting pretty quickly.
So, if I had advise to offer as far as breeds go, I can tell you with confidence – I would not recommend White Plymouth Rocks if you are looking for a friendly, docile bird. I do like the Welsummers and Buff Orpingtons quite a bit. I guess it’s early in the game to call a favorite, because I don’t have egg-laying traits to factor in yet, but personality-wise, I like those two breeds the best out of the four with which we have started. The Rhode Island Reds are still a wild card – there are only two of them, and I haven’t seen how well they adapt to the new flock pecking order to make a call. They are quite large in comparison to some of the others, so I am hoping they do not fill the role of bullies that the Rocks were playing.
In other farm news, I may have a lead on a source for LaMancha goat kids, both purebred, as well as LaMancha mixed with Alpine and Toggenbergs, about an hour from here. I need to follow up on that, as well as send an email to a gentleman who has agreed to help us determine the status and needs of the beehive boxes on our property.
It’s work, but it’s all really satisfying, meaningful work that will benefit us directly, and that’s a great feeling.