The Flocks Meet

It’s sunny! It’s above freezing! Enough snow has melted in the back meadow that I was able to move the goats’ electric fence (note to self, bring in the fence before the first snowfall or you might not be able to for the rest of the winter), get the gate open, and let them out. They tippy-toed past the snow and trotted into the meadow.

There’s no grass to eat, but Pip did find a downed pine branch to nibble on. New places (or old places they haven’t been for awhile) make goats skittish, so they explored, then got the wind under their tails and galloped back to the barn. They repeated this a couple of times, until, full and exhausted, they settled onto their big, flat warm rock in the paddock to chew their cuds.

Meanwhile, for the first time since November, there was enough bare ground around the coops that I could let the chickens out of their pens.

The girls from the big barn headed down the path to the HenCam barn.

The two flocks rarely mingle, even when they are all outside free-ranging. I’d like them to meet and greet, because my plan is that in a few weeks I’m going to house everyone in the HenCam barn. The big barn will then become the home of the new chicks (arriving end of April.) First, though, the barn will get a thorough cleaning, a vacuuming and a scrubbing. I’ll even dig up the packed dirt in the yard and plant grass. I want it to have two months of rest before the chicks move in.

So, I was happy to see the old girls heading over to the HenCam barn. They can see that run from theirs, and sure they’ve been missing the good stuff, they explored the run. The seven hens who live there came back in, too. They eyeballed each other. Buffy cackled. It would have been peaceful except for the two trouble makers – Lulu and Maizie. They puffed up, they banged chests, they went for each other’s combs. I picked up one, and then the other. Set them down. Lulu remained huffy. Maizie had had enough. She headed back to the calm safety of the big barn.

When Maizie was younger, she was the hen that went for the kill. It was impossible to add new chickens to her flock. She would jump on a hen, pin her down, and peck at her head. When the Polish hens first arrived, I tried adding them to Maizie’s group, but she’d run after them and beat them up. Maizie ignored their submissive signs and never let up. Luckily, I have two coops, and was able to move the Polish into the a barn where they were accepted. (Polish are notoriously hard to integrate into a flock. Their top knots are to chickens like a red flag to a bull. See here about the duct tape protective hats I made.) I did manage to add the Golden Comets to Maizie’s flock, but that took weeks of providing them with hiding spots and separate roosts. I was close to deciding to cull Maizie – I don’t like aggressive hens – but I was able keep everyone safe and keep her. Once things settled down, you’d never know that she is territorial.

I’m optimistic that after a few more interactions, that Lulu and Maizie will figure out how to leave each other alone. They’re too old for this nonsense.


  1. Terry,
    Have you thought of writing adult books? I think you are a very good writer, lover reading your blog.
    Don’t know if you have the room in the hencam barn but when I have introduced adult birds to an established flock I always pen them in the coop for a couple of days so they can get use to one another. There will be occasional “fence” fighting. I believe it helps.

    • Thanks, and yes, I do write adult books. In fact, I’ve got two projects being shopped around right now by my agent. Are any of you readers also editors? Interested?

  2. Hmm, I wonder if Mazie is trying to act like a rooster ? She doesn’t try to crow ?

  3. Ken- these birds are used to each other! They’ve free-ranged together for years. Lulu is a crazy bird and Maizie is downright mean. No one else tussles. Ridiculous, really.
    Kit- Maizie isn’t acting like a rooster. This is totally different aggression. It’s dominance, pure and simple. In a normal situation, the chickens peck each other a bit, figure out who’s boss, and that’s that. Maizie doesn’t stop. Combine that with crazy, huffy Lulu, and it’s a bad combination! I’ll be letting them near each other again, but this time, feeding treats. Whoever gets rude won’t get to eat. That, and picking up the aggressor, helps.

      • Hi Ken, in a previous blog you had mentioned you keep hay in your coop, I also do especially once it strted getting cold. My hen developed a sneeze several months ago and even after being on antibiotics for several weeks the sneeze hasn’t gone away and sometimes sounds like a honk, do you think the hay is irritating her?

        • Hi Andrea- my hens have hay too. They’re bedded with shavings, but there’s hay in the run. Chickens don’t get allergies like people do. However, if your hay is musty or moldy, you’ll have problems.

          • Hi there. I try my best to make sure the hay is fresh and I’m cleaning it out everyday but I’ve been using hay for her bedding, do you think it’s overkill? I’m at my witts end with this sneeze!
            Loved your photos by the way.

            • Hay can get damp and moldy. Why don’t you switch to pine shavings. Is she overweight? (I’m sure you read the post about the 14 pound hen.) Have you run a fecal and checked for worms?

  4. Hi Terry,
    Enjoyed your post and photos. I wonder whether you stay out with your chickens when they are allowed out of their runs to guard them from predators. I recently lost one of my chickens to a hawk while she was out walking in the yard and unfortunately I was in the house. Now I am back to staying outside with them every minute…Thanks.

    • I do worry about hawks, and in fact the fenced area has hawk netting above. I stayed outside doing chores for most of the time; I did go inside – but not for long, and I watched from the dining room window. My good dog Lily watches for hawks from inside the house (!) and she’s alerted me to hawks in the past.

  5. I hope I can safely integrate new chicks into the flock this year. Last year’s were raised by a hen and that helped. Good advice on handling meanies though. Interesting, no hawks in our area have ever attacked the chickens. They seem mostly focused on all the ground squirrels. Our problem is with sneaky foxes that lurk in the neighbors’ fields. We do our best to protect them but I refuse to lock them up to keep them safe. I figure a good healthy free ranging life at least makes them happy while they’re with us and otherwise I just do my best on safety precautions.

  6. Hawks have become a huge problem for me. I let my hens out last night at about 6 pm and stayed out the whole time. I was doing chores as well, when all of the sudden I heard the panic cackling and hens runninig in all directions. I looked, saw a redtail make a swoop, miss, land in the oak tree. I ran over with a shovel, threw it at the hawk, missed and to add insult to injury he just watch it sail by and didn’t fly off. The ones around here seem to have no fear of humans.

    • Ken I too have a problem with hawks. I find they respond more to a flapping coat than a thrown object. My neighbors think I’m mad.

      • The hawks were out today. I had to stand next to Scooter while he pooped today – a hawk was eyeing him. Lily did a good job of barking at it, so it was well up in the sky – too far for me to throw anything :)