Our plan with the ex-bat chickens has always been to let them roam in the poultry orchard. We aren’t planning on merging them properly with our existing hens, we think they will exist as two separate colonies, the ex-bats in their shed, and the old hens in their ark.
The BHWT guidance for merging flocks (BHWT Website) is quite useful, but doesn’t quite cover our situation. Still I planned on taking note of the pointers in it, and slowly letting the ex-bats out, and only while I was with them, until they were confident enough to survive on their own. We’d also already got one thing right, the ex-bats had been in sight of the old hens for more than a week. I hoped all else would go as well.
As ever, things didn’t quite go to plan. The first problem I’ve already mentioned, (Morning Excitement). Then the following day during the evening feed I noticed that either the chickens or the wind had pushed the cage off center, and several chickens had got out. I managed to get them back in fairly quickly, and did my best to wedge the cage closed.
When walking up to the shed to give the ex-bats yesterdays morning feed, I saw that the cage had come free again, and that there were quite a few chickens out. I opened the door to collect eggs and replace the water, and by the time I’d managed to get that done I’d managed to displace about half the chickens outside. Realising (after a short futile bit of waving my arms around and gentle encouragement) that I wasn’t going to get them back in, I decided to leave them out, and see how the day went on. I planned on checking them a couple of times to make sure they were ok, and that the old hens weren’t bullying them.
Through the day all seemed fine, and the only time I saw any conflict was when one of the ex-bats wandered over to where the old hens were eating and tried to take some of their food. There was a brief exchange of views and the ex-bat chose discretion. Last night I was planning on putting the ex-bats away and shutting them up. They were planning on staying out as long as they could. I tried to round them up, but it was futile, and in the end I closed the main door and left the cage loose so they could all get back in. I thought they’d probably put themselves to bed. Just to be sure, Alex and I went out with a torch once it was properly dark and searched around to make sure none were stuck outside, and do a quick headcount. They had all managed to make it back inside, and all was well!
This morning I was greeted by a great sight, more than half of the ex-bats were happily out and about, and really starting to explore their surroundings. This picture doesn’t show it all, because it doesn’t include the four who were hanging around my feet trying to work out if I was edible!