Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy Hens

I realized I never introduced the newest members of our farm family! How rude. Back in June I got really impatient waiting for eggs. The chicks were still a couple of months away from laying and July was the month of family visitors. How could I let my family visit the farm without providing them with farm fresh eggs?!

I realized I just couldn't, so I kept my eye on Craigslist for already laying hens and just happened to luck out and find someone less than 5 miles away from me who was selling White Leghorn/Production Red x hens. If you know anything about Montana then you know that it was a miracle! No one ever lives that close to you and has what you want. They call it Big Sky Country for a reason. Your neighbors could be 20 miles away, let alone someone who posted a Craigslist ad for chickens.

We decided to bring home 5 hens and per the recommendation of every article online, including one written on Backyard Chickens, we put them in quarantine in the horse stall in the back of the property. Most articles recommend a month long quarantine to watch for disease and any other problems that might be passed on to your existing flock.

Happy new hens in "quarantine". 

I, of course, was impatient and only waited a week to start the introduction process. I wanted to integrate the flock before I went on vacation so I knew that everyone was getting along and the people keeping an eye on them wouldn't have to deal with the "pecking order" getting a little to rough.

I treated them all for mites just in case and then put the two flocks where they could see each other, but not have full contact with each other. The first few days were hard because our rooster Jinx kept biting the new hens combs and making them bleed. I had to put an extra barrier of chicken wire between them so he couldn't get his whole head through the fence. None of the other chickens seemed to have a problem so I had to wait it out until Jinx calmed down. After a few days I removed the extra chicken wire and let them get closer, and then a few more days later I removed the barrier fence all together and let them free range together.

I expected to have to sit out with them all day and play interference but I was pleasantly surprised when they all happily clucked and scratched and foraged together like they'd been together all along. And the best part- we started getting eggs a day after bringing the new hens home!

In the beginning of August we did unfortunately loose one of the young hens, Kiwi, to an infection of her vent (I think she had what is called "gleet", only google it if you want to see really gross pictures) when she was coming into lay. She developed the infection while I was away and by the time I was home it was to infected to treat. It was very sad, but she needed to be put down, and there was a chance that she had a problem with her reproductive system that never could have been helped.

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