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Adding To The Flock

I’m afraid that I got a bit carried away last Saturday week and bought five bantams at a bring and buy sale in north county Dublin. I felt that it would be nice to have a cock about the place to add to the colour, character and noise of my holding. Well, as if it was not enough buying one cock and hen, I ended up buying two cocks and three hens!

I first bought a young pair of Old English Game bantams. The cock is lovely, lively and very nicely coloured. The hen is small and mainly black. Then, when I was walking through the field where the sale was being held, I came across a Pekin cock and two hens. I couldn’t resist them and bought them as well. I’ll post pictures of the birds shortly.

This was the start of a very interesting few days. I brought the birds home and put them into the run temporarily with the laying hens. All I can say is that all hell broke loose. The two cocks went at each other like hammer and tongs while the layers attacked all the newcomers viciously. Before I knew it, the layers were pecking and chasing the bantam hens while the cocks were trying to hold their own against the layers while also fighting each other. It was a disaster! The only option was to separate the birds again.

I put the Old English Game pair in a box and separated the three Pekins from the layers with a barrier. I then had to hastily build a makeshift home for the Old English Game birds, as the cock in that pair was by far the fiercest. I converted a bedroom dresser into a temporary coop for them and had them safely housed by the evening.  I kept the other three separated behind the barrier for the night. The next day, I started building a proper coop, based on an ark design, for the three Pekins and I built a nice fold unit for the two Old English Game birds over the weekend.  They are all housed separately now and seem very happy. I will post pictures of the coops, with details of construction and materials shortly.

I noticed as I was watching the new birds during all the mayhem that one of the Pekin hens looked a little under the weather and was very messy around the rear end. She was also being singled out for serious pecking for the short time she was in with the layers.  Her droppings were very watery. I was concerned that she might be somehow unwell or have parasites, so I separated her from the other birds entirely. I inspected her and saw that she was very messy and dirty at the vent and seemed to be prolapsed. I washed her gently in warm water to clean the mess away and dealt with the prolapse in the appropriate manner. I got some medicine from the local pet store and also put her on a feed of pinhead oats only. I kept her warm and isolated for the following few days.

As the weather was very warm in Dublin, I left the poorly hen in her box in a shady part of the garden during the day and made sure that she had food and water. No sooner had I turned my back than she escaped from the box and began to range around the garden, scratching and picking up bits of stuff in the grass and weedpatches. She looked a lot more sprightly so I decided to leave her to her own devices and see what happened.  That evening I caught her quite easily and returned her to her box. I let her out again over the following days and she never strayed far from the coop area. She was clearly a lot brighter and looked fitter and healthier. She even started fighting through the wire with one of the other bantam hens!

At this stage, as I had put the other bantams in their new coops I put the once poorly bantam in the temporary coop that I had made from the bedroom dresser. This gave me an opportunity to observe her drinking, eating and droppings more closely and precisely. I was satisfied that she was eating and drinking better and that her droppings were now normal, with no trace of blood, parasites or water. She was also completely clean at the vent. I caught her again today to inspect her and was satisfied that she was completely clean at the rear with no sign of prolapse. Based on these observations, I returned her to the company of the other two Pekins and she settled in very well.

All of this was somewhat more than I bargained for and certainly made my early days of poultry keeping very interesting. However, I also learned some very important lessons from the experience. Firstly, I should never have bought stock from an unknown source. I did not know the sellers and I knew nothing of the stock at all. I did not even inspect them before I bought them. This was a very bad idea, which I will never repeat. Secondly, while bring and buy sales are charming, they are really not where one should buy birds. Next, I should never have put the newcomers in with the layers, as I did not know whether they had any diseases or worms or other parasites. It would have been so easy to introduce pests and sickness to my new flock through this carelessness. This was probably the worst mistake of all and one I will not repeat.  I seem to have got away with it on this occasion, however. Further, I should not have introduced the newcomers to the layers as they upset a flock that was itself just settling into new surroundings.  And then putting two cocks together was not a good idea either!

So I certainly made many mistakes in my first two-and-a-bit weeks of poultry keeping. However, I think I also learned a lot as well as I read books and Internet articles on stock keeping and illnesses and pests of poultry. I also learned to observe birds closely and to learn from my observations.

Now that all the birds are separated into their own communities and coops, I am happy that I bought the little bantams as they certainly add colour and noise to the garden. And it really is nice to hear the cocks crowing early in the morning, although my children don’t agree! My kids’ friends love the birds and are really enjoying watching them settle in to the garden. And I think they are also learning something about the facts of life, which is surprising, as they are all adults.

Have you made similar mistakes to me when you started out poultry keeping? What were they? Have you any advice or observations that you’d like to share with me? Did I make more mistakes than I mentioned in this post? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pictures and more news of the layers will follow in the next post, including lessons learned about chicken runs.

One Comment

  1. des gina says:

    Peggy would like to know, how in the name of God, that you did’nt realise that you cannot have two cocks with one flock of hens!!!!! Quote from your mother “do you not realise that if you have two cocks you will have incestuous eggs!!” So explain that when she visits!! Ahhhhhhh…….. xxxxx

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