Did you know that if new chickens are to be added to a flock it should be done overnight? If introduced during the day, they may fight ‘til their death. But if merged while sleeping, the chickens will wake together peacefully, and accept one another as part of their group – as if they were together already. (Such birdbrains!)
This is how we increased our flock recently at our Southern Vermont Bed and Breakfast. After a summer of a declining chicken population (but an increasingly satisfied raccoon and fox population), we were down to four hens for our source of farm fresh eggs. This is nothing short of a crisis for a country inn that is so committed to serving wholesome local foods at breakfast each morning! And, as maybe you don’t know, it’s not real easy to find hens for sale in the fall. If you don’t buy them as chicks in the spring, the options disappear quickly. So when were alerted in October that a Massachusetts farm was selling pullets (that’s the hip word for ‘teenage hens’), our interest was piqued. But it only got better from there. My Mom and Dad (who still chuckle at my interest in backyard farm animals) went to the farm, bought us six pullets and delivered them to us at the bed and breakfast as birthday presents for me and Michael. Thanks Mom and Dad! We kept the six new pullets separate from the four mature hens for several weeks, until they were all similar in size. Then late one night, we stealthily executed “Operation New Chickens” and placed the six young birds on the roosting bar next to the four hens. Although some feathers were indeed ruffled, all ten birds shifted and wiggled just momentarily, and then drifted back to slumber. The following days were relatively peaceful …though it was interesting to watch the young hens earn their status as equals. Expressions like ‘ruffling feathers’ and ‘hen pecking’ are fully explained in our backyard! We now gather about eight eggs per day and we’re inviting you to Okemo Valley for a truly local breakfast.