It’s been almost two and a half months since we brought home the newest little members of our flock, Salt-n-Pepa, and they have settled in nicely. We got Salt-n-Pepa to be Millie’s roommates after her coop-mate Coco Puff passed away a few months ago (Farewell Funny Lady). Millie is a very small bantam chicken, and she lives in a small coop on the back porch, so we were looking for a couple of similarly small chickens to keep her company. Millie would definitely be the boss in this relationship, so we also needed a mellow breed of chicken that didn’t mind being henpecked too much! Due to the small size of bantam chickens (they are usually about a quarter of the size of a standard chicken) they lay very small eggs and are somewhat of a novelty chicken. As a result, there are not a whole lot of people breeding them or selling them, so I was very happy to find a pair of 3 month old cochin bantam hens on Craigslist. Cochins are a very round breed and are heavily feathered on their legs and toes, so they look rather like a miniature pom pom. In addition, they are supposed to have a gentle temperament and don’t need much space. They seemed like the perfect fit to be Millie’s new coop-mates.
For the first month or so after we brought home Salt-n-Pepa, we had to keep them separated from Millie with a screen through the middle of their coop. The reason for this is that it allows the chickens to see and hear each other and get used to each other, without allowing the older resident hen to attack the newest members of her flock. It took quite a long time for Millie to accept Salt-n-Pepa, and for a while I was worried that she would never accept them. Every time we would remove the screen to allow Millie to interact with Salt-n-Pepa, she chased and pecked them mercilessly. So the screen would go back in for another week, and we’d try again. Eventually the peckings lessened, Salt-n-Pepa grew bolder and stopped running in fear from Millie, and a sort of peace, if not quite friendship developed.
Salt-n-Pepa are about 5 months old now, and they should start laying eggs very soon. As bantam hens, their eggs will be very small, about a third to a half the size of the eggs that our full-size chickens lay. Once they are laying, I’m hoping that Lil’ Red Rooster will take a better liking to the girls so they can benefit from his protection when they are out free ranging. Lil’ Red is very fond of Millie, and so whenever she is out and about, Lil’ Red is not far behind. Salt-n-Pepa will often wander off to a totally separate area of the yard with no thought of the potential dangers they face when leaving the watchful eye of their Lil’ Red Rooster. This morning I let Millie, Salt-n-Pepa out for a few minutes while I was up taking care of the girls in the main coop. One minute Salt-n-Pepa were right outside the fence around the main pasture, and the next minute they were nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, they are not very good at coming when called with a “Here, chick, chick” which loosely translated into chicken means “I have treats for you if you come over here to get them.” I will need to step up the training since it is very useful to have chickens that come when called. This morning I was looking around for them after they wandered off, when I heard the distinct alarm call a chicken makes when a threat is perceived, and it was coming from way up in the garden. I ran up there as fast as I could, hoping they had not encountered something dangerous like a weasel (Where the Wild Things Are). Much to my relief, when I got up to the garden I found that they had made the acquaintance of the cute little bunny rabbit that has been visiting the garden. I’m not sure if the chickens were more afraid of the bunny, or if it was the other way around, but either way I was thankful for a happy ending.