Sunday, 20 May 2012

Fowl Play?

When we last mentioned chickens, we had just bought the five hens ("hins" as they say round here) and they were settling in. We've had a bit of fun since then. The first run was built in a bit of a hurry and didn't allow the birds access to the out building which we'd designated as chicken house (formerly milking shed). We were therefore carrying them to/from morning and evening in a cardboard box.
On the Tuesday we were able to buy chicken wire and Dad constructed a bigger, more permanent run for the girls which let onto the back door of the milking shed. He then constructed a pop-hole in the door so that the chooks could get to and from under their own steam. The chooks, meanwhile had got used to roosting in the calf house manger which was actually at the 'wrong end' of the outbuilding, not in the bit we wanted them to have.
 Next job, then, was to build the chicken 'cage' within the outbuilding, restricting them to the correct end, where they were given perfectly good perches to replace the manger bar they'd adopted. 7 feet high should be good enough a barrier, considered Dad, so he built the mesh barrier up to wall height, leaving the apex up into the rafters open. However we did not have any decent wood to build a doorway out of so the 'wall' of chicken wire was left with a door-way opening into which Mum wedged the frame of the futon bed; it wasn't the full 7 feet tall but we figured it would keep the birds contained

Not a bit of it. The morning saw them all lined up on the former perch in the manger. No problem. Mum and Dad were amused by the girls' persistence and determination, to have hopped over the futon frame, but thought that with a proper 7-foot tall door would put a stop to their gallop. Amusingly, too we seemed to have the laziest chooks in Roscommon. Even though the pop-hole was open nobody went free ranging, it being cold and wet out. They remained indoors, preferring to be 'barn-reared' rather than free range, if that's alright with you, Mr Farmer!
The 7 foot tall door? Effective? Not a bit of it. When Dad went out to check on the gang last thing at night, not only were 2 chooks on the manger bar perch again, but the remaining 3 were sitting roosting on top of the 7 foot mesh barrier, obviously quite capable of getting up that high, probably in stages via the intended perches up the 'new end'. Nothing for it but to chicken wire all the way to the rafters and apex, which Dad did next day. The day was finally won, and the girls, vocal and annoyed that evening, are now contained in the right end. They'll get used to it.

Mum and Dad decided that as there were no neighbours to annoy, they would add a cockerel to the mix. The cock bird could marshall and help protect his ladies as well as sometimes getting them to go purposefully broody so that we might have replacement stock of young birds and some cockerel-pullets for the pot. They contacted Tom again from who told us he had cock birds for sale at 17 weeks old (a bit younger than our girls, who are now 23 weeks old and should be LAYING EGGS (Hint hint!) by now. On Friday 18th May, Mum and Dad drove down through Ballyhaunis and County Mayo to Athenry to collect their boy, who they decided should be called William the Conqueror to cement the Sussex connection and maybe inspire him to heroics and good protecting and marshalling. He looked rather fine, upright and proud all be it a bit stumpy where his tail feathers were mainly gone, presumably pulled out by the dozens and dozens of females in his rather crowded home-pen in Mayo.

Here again, the girls decided that all was not going to go according to plan. They did not love him and they did not want him in their run so they roughed him up a bit. The poor lamb did nothing to fight back and over the Friday and Saturday just seemed to get more and more bullied and more and more miserable. Nobody was actually hurting him or trying to peck him hard and injure him, but the 'Lovely Girls' (as they have now been named) would ignore him, have a quick peck as he went by, not roost with him and leave him behind when they went out to scratch in the sun (which they all now do happily after the first 3 lazy days). By this morning he was sitting hunched up in the hen house looking a picture of abject misery and we know from experience that chooks left like this will just go downhill, off their food and then fall off their perches, dead for no apparent reason.

Something had to be done. Mum and Dad were off shopping in Castlebar and decided that if William was still being pathetic by the time they got back, they'd force him out into the sunshine and make him see the grass and scenery. Bring him out of himself. This they did and it seems to have been the making of him. He seemed to come to in the sunshine and started striding about, scratching and pecking, eating grass and feed pellets, preening and doing a bit of sun bathing in the heat of today (it was very warm in the sunshine). We were a bit worried, even so, that the girls would take themselves off to bed last thing, leaving him out doors where Dad would have to round him up but, no, the last-thing checks revealed him indoors and roosting cuddled up to one of the girls. He must have taken himself off indoors with them. We hope this is a turning point, and tomorrow he'll be accepted into the gang properly.

Watch this space

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

I would say they love him really, just needed to show him who was boss first off, in case he got too big for his boots