Friday, March 7, 2014

The Patel Twins

We have two new chickens! Padma and Parvati! ( If you've not yet noticed all of our birds have Harry Potter names ).We decided that waiting until the end of April for our new chicks was too long to get some fresh layers in the flock. Yesterday afternoon Lyra and I ran down to Western Farm Supply and picked up 2 beautiful Barred Rock Pullets! I have always been enamored with the sight of this breed. They have lovely black and white laced feathers, I guess that's how they got their name, their feather patterns look like rocks?? Hmmm...
They are about 6 months old and Barred Rocks can start laying at 7 months! They lay large brown eggs, are pretty faithful layers and I've read that they are pretty sweet chickens with lots of personality.Ooh boy!

It's always a bit nerve wracking adding new birds to an existing flock. Chickens are extremely social birds and they develop a hierarchy among themselves, we call this a  pecking order. There is always a mama matron and a bottom girl, the one that gets last dibs on that tasty broccoli, it's most often the youngest or most recent addition to the flock. So it's never quite clear how the birds will react to new comers. You always want to wait to introduce new hens until they are large enough and fast enough that they can defend themselves. Though some pecking and bossing around is inevitable, you will see less of this if the newbies are the right age. Chickens can be pretty gnarly and might kill a new chick if it's small enough and doesn't have a mama type hen protecting it. There are lots of different methods folks use to introduce new birds, one of the most common being setting up a small fenced in area and tiny coop within the existing run so the birds can get used to each other through the safety of the fence. The method that we have used all 4 times we've brought new birds home is to stick them in the coop at night when the other chickens are docile or better yet sleeping. Chickens aren't known for their intelligence and often will wake up only slightly confused about the new birds, more like, "Hmmm when did she get here??" rather than, "Intruder! Get her!".
So that's what we did with Padma and Parvati. Brought them home, stuck them in the coop when the girls went to bed and so far so good. One of the funniest things we've noticed is that the lowest ranking bird (in this case it's Ginny, Minerva's daughter) will be all huffed up about moving up the social ladder. It's always that birds job to pick on the newbies and show them who's boss. It's hilarious seeing the one hen that has been the most frightened and the most picked on all of a sudden start strutting around and acting like she found the golden ticket! The rest of the birds have been amazingly tolerant so far today, only pecking at the new girls if they get in their way. It does throw the flock off for a little while though, while they re-establish their ranks and places.
I am super excited about these beauties! We decided to name them after the Patel twins because I have a feeling they will be a bit hard to tell apart. That lovely red headed girl in the photo below standing next to ... let's say Padma, is Poppy. She is a stunning Americauna, that lays pretty pale blue eggs. She could be a show chicken... people do that, show chickens. I mean, it's no weirder than showing dogs, so why not?

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