There they are: The Fifth-Acre Farm Flock all grown up, peacefully cohabiting in their chicken fortress made for six, each laying an egg a day in the wide variety of shades for which we so carefully selected the breeds.
Just kidding. It’s actually more like this. Since the Great Chicken Integration that Wasn’t, the three older hens have ruled the run while the three younger ones cower on the roost inside the coop, daring to come down only to eat and drink, daring to go out only when Mavis the Big Black-and-White Barred Rock Bully comes in.
We were told many things about integrating the flocks. One was to wait until they were the same size as the older hens. The other was to wait until they were all laying. We were forced to go with the first option because they outgrew their crib coop, but in hindsight, I would have waited until they were all laying, if for no other reason then they become much more docile and easier to catch. None of them is laying yet, so we are still chasing them around the yard or sneaking up on them to get them back inside the coop after free-ranging time.
Well, all except Belle, the black one. She is just as sweet as pie. Chicken pot pie. Kidding. But she lets us hold her. She lets Alistair hug her. She whines when she is away from her sisters. She’s gentle and dim. And she is very clearly not a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, which is what we ordered. Granted, the chicks look very similar, with that beautiful black eyeliner, but once her pin feathers grew in there was no variation in color. I finally did some research and surmised that she must be a Black Australorp, which is almost as fun to say as “Wyandotte.” But then I took to the Backyard Chickens forum tonight and was told that she is a Jersey Giant. Uh. OK. But we’ll keep her. She’s our favorite. I know you’re not supposed to play favorites, and we love Molly and Emily, but Belle is the best, and apparently a beast.
Emily, the purported Buttercup, is also turning out to be something other than we thought. This isn’t her. She’s camera shy. She is also mottled white and brown, though, rather than gold and black, like Buttercups, so I think she is an English Jubilee Orpington. Who knew there were so many varieties of Orpingtons!!?? Well, now we have two. Molly is a straight-up Buff Orpington. We got one right!
So now I guess we wait out the integration until they are all laying and hope for no more surprises. Nate tried to lock them all in the run today and force them to get along, but much of the time it looked like this, big chickens merrily going about their seed feeding frenzy, littles huddled by the pop hole door. The problem with this tactic is denying the big girls access to the nest boxes, so when I opened the door and let everyone out to free range, which they do separately, in groups of three and two (Mavis the Maverick is a loner these days), Mavis ran in to lay with a few extra jabs at the littles and some loud squawking to let me know she literally could not even.
Mavis is also the alpha. She is the top of the pecking order. The Mama Hen. And she’s a big backyard bully. Lady and Millie could care less that there are three new ladies who lay. They take their occasional jabs, but nothing like Mavis. She chases them around, corners them, won’t let them near the food. I actually came home one day and Nate had out her in time out. She was alone in the babies’ old crib coop with some straw, food, and water, thinking about what she had done wrong…
Yeah. So, each night we lovingly pry the little claws of the younger three from the nest boxes and place them between the big girls on the coop roost, hoping familial bonds will grow overnight, that one day Mavis will be their protector, that nobody else fucking molts and stops laying for a month, blowing feathers all over the yard—wait, where was I? Oh yeah. At least none of them are roosters.