Wednesday 5 December 2012

Meeting the Boss

Now that the baby chicks have reached a fine, fully feathered, 6 weeks old we had promised them and their Mum that we would release them from the Maternity Unit on the first reasonable day for weather. They could have an explore, meet the other hens and the rooster and, if they wanted to, move back in with them in the 'grown ups' roost.

This happened at around midday - we'd had to nip into town for a hay bale (rabbit bedding - hay may be a mad money from a pet-shop but a whole bale is only €4 from the merchant), for coal and to collect our (shhhhh) hearts, kidneys and livers from the butcher. The weather was mild and only spitting rain occasionally and the hutches are, as you know, in the dry calf house anyway, so we opened the hutch door to see what would happen. The gang are well used to this anyway as I open it several times a day to feed them, but I never stand back and let them lean out properly.

One chick quickly and professionally hopped down to the floor but then thought better of it and could not get back up, so we quickly improvised a ramp from peat turfs to allow easy access.

The babies and Mum had only been down and exploring a few minutes when the rooster and hens wandered into the yard and, driven by their own curiosity, came and had a look. There we were, mixing. It all seemed to go well. We watched from the sidelines but did not interfere. Broody Betty was accepted back straight way, admittedly with a couple of pops from the alpha-hen just to make sure she wasn't getting any ideas. The hens also dopped the babies on the heads a few times in a half hearted way to make a point but the babies were pretty much allowed to run in between and among the hens. They were, of course, excited to be allowed out into the yard and to see real puddles, real earth and real herbage for the first time and their excited cheeping frequently brought a hen running just to make sure they weren't missing out on the best food.

William was keen to "welcome" Broody Betty back (now there's a euphemism!) under his wing but she was, for now, having none of it. He took very little interest in the new babies and they kept a respectful distance. He's a big fella now and they are only 8 inches tall when they stretch right up.

At one point Rolo the cat wandered up. Cats were our other slight worry - these chicks are not much bigger than the rats that at least one cat can dispatch so we wanted to make sure they were an out-of-bounds, off-the-menu shape for the cats. The cat came and tried to go nose to nose to a chick. The chick was bewildered and totally unafraid (a worry!) but Betty came and pecked him on the nose and he retreated in high dudgeon as only cats can.

So, we all mooched around for a while staying within a few yards of the calf house door until the hens seemed to get bored and wandered off back to the front lawn followed by William who seemed in two minds which 'flock' to marshall. The chicks and BB then strolled back into the calf house and climbed the turf ramp back into the hutch. "Our work here is done", they seemed to say. I shut the hutch door and left them to it. We gave them another run out in the afternoon, which went similarly. I guess we just keep doing this till they eventually re-join the main flock for good.

A successful excercise.

By the way, it's been pointed out to me that occasional spam content gets into my 'comments' section. I have purged this but if any of you are commenting under the heading 'anonymous' you may no longer get through.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

It's lovely watching young chicks having their first taste of freedom, so much to learn and taste, hopefully they will be allowed by the older hens to join them and become one flock before long.