Hilda does what chickens do best. She eats and lays.
Helen on the other hand, lays less eggs than her sister and is a bit more highly strung, particularly since the chicks have been free ranging during the day.
Hilda is a
fat nicely rounded chicken, as you would expect for one that loves to eat and doesn’t let anything bother her. Helen is a bit more streamlined, as you would expect from someone more highly strung and sometimes more interested in pecking at a chick than eating.
My first attempt at free ranging the chicks and their Mama with the two Barnevelders was not very successful and resulted in Mama hen “viciously” attacking poor innocent Hilda Hen after Helen got too close to the chicks and left Hilda to take the blame.
The chicks were six weeks old. So for the next week, the chicks and Mama were only allowed to free range for a short time each day while Hillda and Helen were safely locked away in their run after bribing them with treats.
So when the chicks were seven weeks old and I was due to go back to work after my Christmas holiday, I tried once again to free range them all together. I was on guard duty and spent the day watching Helen closely.
Helen spent the whole day looking for opportunities to get a chick on its own so she could terrorise it. But I was watching her. Helen was very predictable, even though she thought she was being stealth-like. She would follow the chicks and Mama hen, at a slight distance thinking Mama hen wouldn’t notice. If Mama hen turned around, Helen would quickly stop and pretend to peck at a leaf or a bit of grass.
But we weren’t ‘t fooled. As soon as Mama hen moved on again, Helen would quickly follow with her body language on high alert and her beady little eyes forever watching for that opportunity.
She was relentless in her pursuit throughout the whole day, but then again so was I. I was ready with my butterfly net (which I bought especially for this purpose after the last attack) behind my back, ready to be pulled out in an instant and brandished at Helen if she tried to take on one of the chicks. Thankfully his worked and there were no vicious attacks.
The next day Helen was again relentless in following those chicks. Hilda of course tagged innocently along but after last weeks escapade, she was wary and didn’t get too close. This time I only had to use the butterfly net once. Helen still looked for opportunities but by this time she had had experienced a few mild attacks from Mama hen and lost one or two neck feathers. Just enough for her to know that Mama hen is still boss.
So now my chicks are nine weeks old and the chicks and the chickens all free range together while I am at work. So far, so good. They are all still there when I get home at night and there is no blood. In the evening Mama hen takes the chicks to bed in their nursery coop and Hilda and Helen go to their bed in the big girls coop.
Thank goodness it has turned out so well. We are going to the beach for a week tomorrow and I didn’t want to have Mama hen and the chicks locked up all day. This way, my chicken sitting sister will not have to do much other than open and shut the coop doors and make sure food and water is available.