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Friday, February 24, 2012

Pepper~New Girl in Town

January February 8, 2012

I decided that another hen was in order. The girls were not laying enough eggs. Wednesday, exbf and I went to the Dutch Oven Bakery for a hen. No, not from the bakery proper, from the Mennonites that own the bakery and live next door. Joel found a small hen, young he thought, from last fall's chicks. That makes her a pullet and not laying eggs yet.
Their dog frightened me. He did not do anything. He is just a big dog. So, exbf petted him, not to erase my fear. He just always pets dogs. Okay, so I did put my feet out, saw the dog and screeched, "Oh no, a dog! Get out and protect me!" Exbf indulgently went around the car to the dog and petted it while he talked to it. I still was not sure about the dog and his desire to rip me apart.
The mother came out on the balcony and talked with me. She called her son to come help me. She suggested feeding red pepper or black to the hens to improve laying. She did not know if it helped, but her sons fed it to their hens.
On the way home exbf and I talked over hen name. Neither of us liked what the other suggested, over and over again. So, finally, because the hen is sort of spotty, has some RIR and Barred Rock background (according to Joel), and we were laughing over feeding pepper to hens, I suggested "Pepper." He liked that, so she is Pepper. She really looks like she has been peppered.
All the animals excited me. Joel thought it was funny. "Oooh, bunnies." This one looks so angry. I don't know if they eat these or not. There were lots of bunny cages, one to a cage.

Another shriek, "Cows." Exbf saw a little black pig out of the pen and told Joel. "Turkeys!" It turned out that the tiny pig had been stepped on and injured, so they took her out of the pen with all the other bigger pigs.
There were lots of turkeys in bunches around the yard/acreage.
I asked what the deal was with the pen of chickens. Joel said that they put the roosters up, hoping the hens might lay better. Really? I told him that too many roosters probably worried the hens so that they could not make eggs. He grinned and nodded.
Pepper came home in a box. We heard her pecking after a few minutes. She was good,  really good. Either she was just a good girl or traumatized. Exbf carried her in the box to the pen. I let the other three girls out. Then, I carried the box in the pen, locked the door, and let her out. She shot out, complaining and terrified. She ran round and round the pen, looking for a way out, sticking her head through the chain link.
look at the difference in their sizes
Here is Pepper on the inside and Louise on the outside. Louise tried to get in through the chain link to attack Louise. She was so angry and determined to get at Pepper. Louise came to me, finally, followed me around and complained in a low, growly voice.
Thelma, Louise, and Fancy were outraged and hollered lots. Louise rarely comes to talk to me. She followed me around complaining. She approached the pen where Pepper was standing and tried to hurt her. Louise went to the door of the pen and wanted in. Out of curiosity, I let her in and she attacked Pepper with both feet. Louise and Thelma are big, heavy birds. Fancy is much smaller. Pepper looks like a banty. I hope not. Pepper is no match for even Fancy, much less Louise.
Finally, toward the end of dusk, I let the three girls back in. I sat and watched to see if they would attack Pepper. Yes, they did and frightened her so. I had exbf stay out and watch. I told him to clap his hands loudly and say, "No!" in a booming voice. It works, but they just attack again. Finally, dinner was ready, so I had him come in and eat. Usually, all three are in their boxes by dusk.

Oh, NO! not today. They were not ready for bed. They walked around complaining until it was almost pitch dark. Finally, the three got in their Rubbermaid boxes. Pepper sat behind the box on the plastic table. Poor thing. She was snatched from her enclosed home and all her friends to live in exile on plastic with three enemies.

Second morning
Pepper's third day here and on table

This is the view from the kitchen window. Pepper stayed up behind their Rubbermaid boxes for about a week, never venturing down unless I opened their pen door. I put food behind the boxes for at least two weeks. The first day it was not eaten, I discontinued the practice.

Pepper's first home

Pepper was abducted/adopted from a very large hen house that was secure from the elements. That hen in the nest box in the lower right corner is laying in a nest box condominium that is suspended from chains. Yes, it swings. Obviously, it suits the hens just fine. But, I have never seen or heard of a suspended, swingy nest box. Have you?

Pepper looks very lonely in my yard, all to herself. I can tell she does not like being chased away. Or, am I projecting my feelings that I would have if I were in her place? 

All three hiding
The next day I decided to take this picture of Thelma and Fancy doing their usual  "stealth sitting" under a bush. They actually hide, sitting very still, and not responding even to food. Of course, dogs and raccoons and other predators can smell them. I think the girls know my limitations and are laughing at me.

I had to get down very low to take this picture. I cannot see them even this well when I am standing. This is the bush they chose long ago to hang out under. Pepper was not allowed to come near.  
While Louise stalked around, fussing at Pepper, pecking her and generally terrorizing her and coming to complain loudly to me and follow me around, Fancy and Thelma disappeared. That's when found them under a bush, sitting perfectly still. This picture is where I bent down and hurriedly snapped a picture. Yes, it hurt my back. I am within a foot of the bush and the ground...ugh. From a distance, only the sight of a few red feathers through the evergreen leaves gives them away.

This has gotten to be such a long post. But, that was the first three days. Maybe if I had gotten at least two hens, Pepper's life would have not been so miserable. It has been 2.5 weeks and things are a bit better.

It seems the young boys are given responsibility over the animals. This is my third trip to buy, and other than the mother calling her son, I have not talked with an adult. Even though he is only sixteen, he was very businesslike and so was my interaction with him. He was only 13-years-old when he sold me my first 10 chicks. Even then, he was in charge and acting like a responsible adult. Three younger brothers and four or five younger sisters were attending that sale.

Your turn
Have you integrated one new hen into an established flock/group? Was the hen running in terror? Do several hens integrated at one time manage better?


  1. Hi Linda, enjoyed your post and hope that all has settled in the hen yard.
    We kept chooks before we went away and what happened to Pepper is normal - there's always the pecking order to be established as hard as it is for us to watch. Introducing two birds at the same time doesn't seem to make any difference, there will be skirmishes until everyone 'knows their place' in the yard and their position on the roost at night too! At our place, we found that separating them just delays the inevitable, but, of course, that's just what we've found. Nothing to really say it'd be the same with your girls. It's fun keeping them though isn't it - plus the bonus of home laid eggs! Cheers for now :D)

  2. Susan,
    Thanks. I have heard some people keep them separated for weeks. I don't have the facilities for that.They only stayed separate for several hours. I just wanted Pepper around here, not chased into another yard before sunset. The older ones did delay their nighttime habit of getting in the nests early. The skirmishes still Yes, I want and need eggs!

  3. Linda
    I love the name " Pepper". As you know, I'm largely ignorant about chickens but loved this post just the same. I hope Pepper is doing better and makes friends.
    If Mennonites are anything like the Amish then their chikdren are raised to be great business people through experience. Its great that a young man was able to help you and that you got to know him over the years too.

  4. I have no fear of dogs, I just really don't LIKE turkeys. Those things are mean!
    I don't have any chickens so this was all new to me.

  5. LindaM,
    Having chickens is a learning experience. Pepper is getting braver and is sometimes driven back. I really don't think she will ever be part of the group.

    The boys carried out the business and talked. The girls stood back and listened.

    Let me tell you, I was wary of the gang of turkey that ran toward us. If we had had food, it would not have been pretty. I believe they went away peaceably after I kept backing up because there was no evidence of food. They looked like they could be a scary hoard if they put their collective minds to it....sort of like geese at the lake, trying to take our food...old bread for them.


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