When I went to the Expoland poultry sale a few weeks ago, I sold all three of the cockerels I had brought with me and, with an empty cage on my hands, decided to treat myself to a couple of pullets.
Any bird brought home needs to be quarantined for a month to ensure that he or she is not carrying anything that might infect the home flock. However, chickens are social creatures and would be depressed if kept all alone for a month, so I knew that if I was buying one bird, I would buy two.
I walked up and down the row of vehicles, looking at all of the young pullets. I didn’t want to bring home any bird older than my oldest; after months of tending and waiting, I want my first egg to be from a pullet I hatched here at home. I saw a pretty little hen with a long neck and tail and decided to ask about her. She was a Golden Phoenix. The sellers were a teenaged girl and her father who explained to me that the girls were sweet while the boys were wild. The birds were the daughter’s project, and they only had this one pullet left to sell. The girl said she was about a month from laying, about the same as my oldest, and was nearly full grown, although she seemed very small. Because she would be the same size as some of my youngest hens, I thought she would be able to fit into my flock. She was $10, and I quickly decided to buy her. Taking her under my arm, I carried her back to my car and put her into the cage.
I needed a second pullet, so, having already made survey of my possibilities, I quickly decided to buy one of the Easter Egger pullets I had seen. They were young, but about the same size as the Phoenix pullet, so they would be on equal footing. I chose a light colored girl, very pretty and with coloring unlike any of my other Easter Eggers, perhaps part White Ameraucana from the look of her. When the seller tried to retrieve her from the cage, she flew out and it took a few people thirty seconds or so to catch her. This made me feel much better about some of my boys flapping as I put them into the buyers’ boxes earlier in the day.
I carried her down to my car, popped her into the cage, and decided to give the new girls a bit of food and water. The Phoenix hen figured out the waterer in about ten seconds and had a good drink. Then I covered the cage and took them home.
The four-by-four coop was occupied by the little Ameraucanas, but they were ready to merge that weekend anyhow. I moved them into the big coop, cleaned the little coop, put the new girls in, and set about erecting a barrier between the two runs. The runs were set up to allow both groups to interact through the fence to ease eventual merging, but I did not want any interaction during the quarantine period. I used scrap pieces of the coop walls to create a little barrier, enough to keep them from seeing, pecking, or coming in contact with the poop of the others.
It has been over two weeks, and so far the girls seem healthy. However, they pine to be part of the larger group and sometimes try to go over the fence. Also, the Phoenix hen, who has established herself at the top of their little pecking order, will not go into the coop at night. She instead perches on the fence post overlooking the larger flock’s run. This makes the Easter Egger want to join her, sometimes with hilarious result at she tries to balance on the wire fencing or ends up outside the pen in a bush. Each night, we’ve had to go out, grab the girls, and put them into their coop for the night. Despite tricks such as leaving them in their coop for a day or turning on the light in the coop, the Phoenix hen is determined to sleep on that post. Hopefully they will be more content when they join the larger flock in a few more weeks.