Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken Coop Addition and the Adventures of Integrating a New Hen

What a busy month it’s been!  Lots of projects in the garden preparing for winter, and a million things to make for the holiday season!


And to add to all the chaos I brought home a young hen to add to our flock.  There were supposed to be 2 little hens, but one was killed by my Dad’s older hens.  So I was really cautious about integrating The Buffster, as we have come to call her.  She is a Buff Orpington, and we kind of just liked that as her name, so Buff for short.  This page is an excellent resource for integrating chickens.  Apparently some people just put the new hens in with their flock when they are sleeping, but my city chickens are pretty tough and much bigger than Buff.  I used the other two options, seperate spaces and caging the bullies.
Unfortunately the 2 quail that were living in the garden died a couple months ago, but I was able to use their old cage for Buff.  I set it up next to the chicken coop so all the chickens could see each other and get used to the changes. 

This is how the integration began:



Not horrible fighting, but lots of pecking and chasing.  It was mainly the #2 hen, Corn Flake, that would pick on the Buffster.  I seperated her from the others a couple times when she was out of control.  It was strange though, her aggression seemed to bump her up in the chain of command and now she is the Alpha Hen.  We gave them time together almost every day and let them scratch around the backyard where there was plenty of room for Buff to run away if she needed to. 


After about a week the older hens didn’t bother her much at all.  So it was time for full integration.   We decided to actually combine the 2 cages.  The original coop needed a bit of reinforcing to begin with.  Once everything was covered in small mesh chicken wire we lined the quail cage up next to the chicken coop with the doorway facing in towards the coop. 


We cut a matching doorway out of the side of the chicken coop by cutting a vertical line through the center, then horizontal cuts along the top and bottom of the door.  This allowed us to bend the cut chicken wire into the quail cage to secure the gap between the two cages.  We used gorilla tape around any sharp edges that we couldn’t bend smooth. 


The overall plan is to add a sunroof to the quail cage section using an old window pane.  We plan to use the top of the main part of the coop to catch rain water, store supplies or turn it into a green roof. 

Even though there was still a little pecking and fighting between hens at this point, we left them alone together to sort out their differences.  And they were fine!  It took another 2 or 3 days until the older chickens let Buff sleep in their house, but now they are one happy flock.


Here is one last addition I’ve made to the coop that has made a big difference.  I saw this idea here.  The purpose of the rocks is to keep the chickens from throwing hay and dirt into their water.  Basically I laid a couple logs down in the corner of the coop to close in a square section which I filled with rocks and bricks.  It’s not perfect but much cleaner.

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