I can’t believe it, but the day has come. I’ve been afraid to post anything for fear of jinxing it, but…we are integrated! Everyone! No more crates, nets, or gazebi. I am plotzing.
It all began on Friday afternoon. 2.0 had begun to shun the sawhorses, in favour of sleeping on the black tray atop 2.1’s crate. It just seemed like a step backward, to me, that they were sprawling together on a flat surface, rather than roosting. It bugged me.
But was 2.1 ready for the big world? More importantly, were they ready for their big sisters?!
My recent experiments in integrating 2.1 into the flock were not encouraging. I allowed both 2.1 and 2.0 in the run one day, and 2.1 barely escaped with their lives. It was shocking.
But they’re fully feathered now, and, though still significantly smaller than the other two generations, much more independent. They’ve figured out the coop, the ramp, the run, and Junk Jungle, and, although they are completely uncontained during the day now, stay to those areas. But how would it go when all three generations were locked up in the coop together? Crates, after all, make good neighbours.
I literally pulled up a chair to watch them settle in for the evening, for safety more than for entertainment. Stepdaughter the Elder had helped me to break down 2.1’s crate that afternoon and replace it with a work ladder. The result looked like this:
I left the top red bucket shelf down, because I didn’t want 2.0 envying 2.1’s higher roost. I just didn’t want to deal with an inter-generational turf war. I figured (ha!) that 2.1 would hunker down on the three black steps, 2.0 would return to the sawhorses, 1.0 would have the highest roosts as befits their station, God would be in his heaven, and all would be right with my chicken world.
In reality, I discovered that the generations are roosting in reverse chronological order, oldest to youngest. This makes sense to me; as with the dispersal of treats, the older, larger chickens get the right of first refusal. How this will play when the chicks catch up in size, however, remains to be seen.
So, 1.0 roosted first, for the most part. A few girls stayed on the floor to fill their crops for the night. 2.0 then figured it was safe to enter the coop, and were met with a ladder where the crate used to be. Time to make new sleeping arrangements, girls. Suck it up and deal. It didn’t take them long to revert to the sawhorses, but they were eying the ladder with suspicion and longing.
This took about an hour, during which time 2.1 cowered underneath the ladder, with quick, strategic foraging dashes under the sawhorses. They were not going to mix it up with the bigger girls if they could possibly avoid it.
This did not, of course, prevent some of the 1.0 girls from taking shots at them; Maisie, Buffy and Alexia were the worst offenders. I stepped in on several occasions, with a pointed finger and a stern “no!”. I have no illusions that chickens can be trained or taught in any way, believe me, but the reflex to do so was beyond me to resist.
Perhaps they even got the message that The Rooster wasn’t happy with them, because they backed off after a few reprimands.
At the hour and a half mark, 1.0 and 2.0 were roosted, and although 2.1 had not yet made their move, I could see they were likely to emerge alive the next morning, and went back into the house.
When I brought Billie out at twilight, I peeked back into the coop to find out where they had settled, to discover they had not (shock!) done what I had expected.
The intrepid little darlings were all crammed on the top bar of the ladder. The narrow, slippery, metal, steeply curved bar, a horizontal surface I had not even considered, because I am an idiot. I would never have imagined they could sustain a good enough grip there to sleep, but I was (shock again!) wrong.
There would have been room enough for all of them, except the chick on the left would invariably press the other two over to the right, in an attempt to put distance between him/herself and 2.0 roosting on the sawhorses. This would go on until the rightmost chick would literally slip off the curve at the right end, flutter to the step below, sashay left, remount the top bar at left, to become the pusher. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I watched the three of them go through a couple rotations of this. It was hilarious to watch. Finally, seeing this had the potential to be a perpetual motion machine, I set up the red bucket holder, plopped the little roo down on it, and, after much protestation that I had dared to molest his person, he settled down, with the two girls roosted above him.
I didn’t want to take photos and possibly upset the delicate ecosystem that was emerging, so I went back with a camera at dusk last night, and captured a few shots:
Guess who’s always on top? MARILYN, of course. Quite as it should be.
So, long story short, we have 19 big girls now, all together. The sawhorses and ladder are temporary, and I’ll replace them with something clever some time this summer. They’re all on the same food, 2.0 comes when I call, and they even try to sneak some top-tier treats when 1.0 isn’t looking. God’s in his heaven, and all’s right with my chicken world.
And, when I opened the run door this morning, they all came flowing out together, even little 2.1.
I was delighted.