The New Girls seem to know a bit about permaculture, especially the design principle, integrate rather than segregate. What this means in permaculture design is that the elements in a design should be placed so that they complement one another and energy is saved and resource use maximised. So if the outputs of one part of the system are the inputs for another part of the system, then it makes good design sense to put them next to one another rather than separate them widely.
In chook terms what this means is that the Newbies have decided they want to be part of the original system, i.e. Molly & Cheeky’s run and coop, rather than be separated in their own run and coop (which only happens at night anyway…through the day they’re all in the same area).
I made a separate run and coop for the Newbs because I wanted to keep them separate initially for quarantine purposes and because I didn’t want to see them being beaten up by the two dominant hens, at least until they’d settled in enough to give a bit of their own back.
It worked OK until they had their first fox scare early one morning. They were quite safe; I knew that but they didn’t, and it resulted in them not wanting to go into their coop at night, but preferring to sleep up on the top. I gave in to that idea and made arrangements to protect what was left of my coop paint job (with newspaper), and collect the poo from there.
That worked OK until yesterday morning. I was lying in bed, half awake, half asleep, trying not to accept that it was time to get up, when I heard the Noisy Miners give their warning calls and the agonised flapping and cackling from the Girls that said ‘fox’. I fell out of bed, grabbing for clothes, with the usual hand clapping and yelling “geroutavit” and went outside. Molly & Cheeky were still in bed in their run but the Newbs were panicking in theirs. Two were in their coop, in the nestbox, on top of one another, while the third was parading up and down abusing all and sundry.
I calmed them down, let them out into the main playground area and staggered inside to properly wake up. The rest of the day proceeded as normal.
Came the evening and the usual job is to go down just on dusk, call them into their respective runs, if they haven’t gone in already, give them a bedtime treat and drop down the pop doors on each run that keep them confined for the night (and keep foxes out), say “goonite Girls” and retreat inside to the computer.
I was doing something important on the computer (Sudoku puzzles are important) and dusk came before I realised it. By the time I got outside Molly & Cheeky were nowhere to be seen, but I know that like all of us oldies they like an early night. The Newbs were nowhere to be seen, either. They weren’t on top of their own coop in their own run.
I bent down to check Molly & Cheeky’s coop through the wire. It was almost dark by now. There seemed to be a lot of black shapes in there and a lot of grumbling and grizzling going on. You wouldn’t read about it (well…I know….you just are!). The Newbs had put themselves to bed in the Oldies coop!
I went into the run and poked my head through the door of the coop. There’s room enough for 6 or 7 chooks in there so I wasn’t worried. Molly & Cheeky were NOT amused. There was a lot of sniping and pecking going on. The Newbs were trying to get themselves settled while keeping out of range of Molly’s beak. I closed down the pop door and left them to argue about it. All because of the fox episode that morning, they’ve given up on their own coop. Who says chooks are dumb?
Ultimately it’s good. It means they’ve integrated fully with the other two. M & C aren’t happy, but they’ll get used to sharing their bedroom. It means less work…back to having only one coop to clean out and one to lock up at night. They’re all together at night in the run that’s next to the house, just under my bedroom window. I’ll hear and wake at any disturbances. They’ll be out of the winter weather, safely tucked up in a coop where I want them, instead of on top of it. Win win all round. Integrate rather than segregate. Permaculture wins again. Yay!