Our farm family grew by four over the weekend. What’s that in those boxes, peering out? Could it be…
There was a welcome party when we brought the mysterious arrivals out to the paddock. Mica and Echo were both equally curious about the strange whistles and scuffling coming from within.
What on earth…
You guessed it – four fancy fowl! Chickens! Finally! Downton Abbey fans rejoice; meet Lady Mary, Lady Rose, Lady Sybil, and Lady Edith.
Lady Mary is a silver laced Wyandotte (the one with white feathers edged in black). Lady Rose is a buff laced Wyandotte (the brown and white one). Lady Sybil is a Plymouth barred rock (the one that looks kind of like a zebra). Lady Edith is a blue Orpington (the big smoky grey one).
That blue stuff on them is a staining powder applied to areas that have been pecked by other chickens to apparently deter further pecking, and also disinfects wounds. Lady Sybil had been a victim of this pecking by another chicken at the breeder’s, and the powder had rubbed off on her sisters.
After unboxing, we gently picked each of the ladies up and introduced them to their new luxury accommodation. It may look rustic to us, but it’s five-star compared to the cramped cages they were bred in.
Both the cat and the duck were bugging us, so we let them in briefly to investigate the new arrivals.
What the duck?!
I don’t think Echo was particularly impressed to have a bunch of intruders desecrating what has been her private pad for the past month. Being the larger bird she’s already at the top of the pecking order, or rather above it. It’s because her regal duck-ness is vastly superior to their petty squabbling, you see.
Mica looked a little too predatory for our liking, and the chickens were offended at her presence, so hers was a one-time visit.
When the ladies are a little older they’ll be able to put this feline in her place.
When the chickens got a bit overwhelmed, both Echo and Mica were relegated to watching the commotion from high perches of their own.
Let me give you the grand tour of the ladies’ manor – we’ll call it Fowlton Abbey – which is an old coop that happened to be here when we bought the property. You might have read about how I built a self-sufficient watering system for them.
I also biffed together a set of nesting boxes and screwed on a bunch of roosting branches.
There was already a hole cut into the chicken coop, so I built a little wooden slider in case we needed to shut them in for any reason. We’re keeping them closed in overnight for a week to let them acclimate, but after that they’ll just be free ranging. This coop is temporary; we’d like to build a proper one someday.
The ladies’ food dispenser is designed to keep vermin out:
The idea is that chooks stand on a platform which opens a lid concealing the food. It’s built to only activate under a chicken’s weight, though I suppose a couple of really smart fat rats could work it out in tandem. It’s left open in “training mode” at the moment, so they don’t spook and can get accustomed to eating from it.
Already at their young age (eleven weeks) the ladies have quite distinct personalities, and it’s interesting watching them sort out their pecking order. Poultry politics begins.
Lady Mary is a bit of a bully, pecking everyone’s butt. Though Lady Rose won’t stand for that nonsense, so chases her off. Ladies Edith and Sybil seem close friends, both underdogs.
Lady Rose (probably at the top of the pecking order but not a snob about it) is the bravest. She even took to leaping up on Char’s shoulder a couple of times.
“I ain’t ‘fraid of no ape!”
We were concerned about getting them to drink from the chicken nipple watering system. We’ve heard it’s difficult to encourage them. We spent a while tapping the nipples, but part of the problem was that the ladies were still a bit timid in our presence. We tried coaxing them with a laser pointer, too, which caught their interest. But, alas, it wasn’t bright enough – and neither were they.
Char stayed a bit longer and eventually saw them all successfully drink from the nipples. Yay, the invention works!
We let them outside on their second day, where we sectioned off a small area with a temporary net, so as not to stun them with too much too soon.
They seemed to enjoy it out there, pecking around in what was their first taste of mud and grass, and basking in the sun. The four of us, Echo and Mica included, must have watched them for over an hour, just doing their thing.
It was a charming way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Welcome to the farm, Ladies Edith, Sybil, Mary, and Rose! We look forward to eating your delicious free range bum-nuts in a couple of months or so!