After most of our chickens were killed by a neighbor dog over the course of six months, we considered giving up the backyard flock. After all, if they couldn’t keep their dog in their yard, wouldn’t we just be inviting trouble to introduce more meals for him?
The problem is: we love having fresh eggs. We know where they’ve come from, what the chickens have eaten and how they’ve been treated. We know they are healthy and not living in close quarters where illness can easily spread, necessitating medications to prevent said illness. And it keeps our kids connected to their food source rather than thinking eggs magically appear in cardboard containers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
So my husband secured some new chickens, fully-grown layers that needed a new home.
Because we only had one lone hen left, it was easy to introduce new chickens to the coop. Chickens really do have a pecking order, and they establish it by man-handling each other until one is established as the Boss Lady Chicken (not a scientific term). We were getting four chickens from the same coop, so they already had come to an understanding with one another. There was some flapping and feather nipping at first, but it looks like peace has been established and the lone chicken has been sworn into the group.
The one other noteworthy item is that when you are teaching chickens where home is, it is important to keep them in the coop for a little while, somewhere between three to five days, so they can get used to their new surroundings. Then when you let them out, as we plan to and have done when the weather/season cooperates, they won’t stray too far from their food and water. If you are the one to feed them, it can be very fun to be the Pied Piper of chickens, and lead them back to the coop all in a chicken-y row because they think you’re going to give them food, very entertaining.
Check back here for more details about the marauding escapades of our neighbor dog and how this all works out with the chickens.