Watcha gonna do?
Our coop is built inside a 150-year old barn, about 8′ x 9.5′ (the coop, not the barn). When The Man designed it, he decided it should have a raised floor for a variety of reasons: to protect the original barn floor, to give the chickens a new, pristine surface we could be sure didn’t harbour any old disease, and to provide a buffer of air between the barn floor and the coop floor, which would serve as an insulator against the cold.
An unanticipated benefit is the eye-level contact I have with my girls when they’re in the coop at lock down. I will occasionally visit them around dinnertime, open the interior coop door, and sit on a folding chair that we keep there. Between the raised floor and the 2x6s that frame the coop floor to contain the sand, it’s a really lovely way to check in with the girls.
Here’s a pic from last summer (the girls were only nine weeks old) to give you a visual:
That was when we still had Angelina, obviously, as there are three Buff Orpingtons pictured…
The girls love it when I do this. With a few exceptions, they compete for my lap, where they are thoroughly massaged under their feathers. When this photo was taken, I could get as many as five on my lap at a time; now, it’s only two, one if it’s Tallulah or Pip. Those girls are substantial.
The first one into my lap is always Trixie, and then Buffy. My Orps are the most consistently affectionate of all my girls. Trixie would never leave if I didn’t oust her for someone else. She totally bogarts the lap.
Coraline likes a turn, and isn’t shy about it. Tallulah and Pip like to pretend they don’t want up, but, once hoisted, they will both bury their arched necks into my chest while I give them a good scrubbing.
Even Hermione and Abby, normally reticent about receiving affection, will take a turn. Not Maisie or Haley, though. Never Maisie or Haley…
I was watching everyone interact while this was happening yesterday, and I saw something I hadn’t seen since week three: chest bumping.
At about two weeks of age, chicks begin to test the pecking order. They fly at each other, pecking heads and bumping chests, in little chick-on-chick tests of dominance. Each pair match is a small piece of the pecking order puzzle. And once the pecking order is established, that’s that.
Buffy. Buffy’s departure from the flock left a hole in the pecking order, and her return challenged it further. She was definitely in the fray, and fending pretty well for herself, too. It seemed to be mostly between Buffy, Trixie and Alexia, three of the girls lower down in the order. No one wants to be #10.
It got pretty brutal, but I resisted the impulse to interfere. I’m not sure who came out on the bottom when all was said and done, but it wasn’t Buffy…