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taking the time to know our hens

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It's been 10 days since our hens came to live with us. They seem to be settling in very well, and were sunbathing together in the flowerbed today. They've found the best place as the cats are often found in the same place.


We have been with them most of the time they've been free ranging. I'm hoping that being around them will mean they will get used to us quicker. Most often we just watch them, but I have started to do some gardening now that we're happy they can't make a quick escape anywhere.


Coco is the bravest and the most obstinate. She often comes to see what I'm doing in the garden. I've started to feed her corn by hand. The others are more hesitant but Bettie Blue will also take a quick bite of corn if Coco has taken the lead. Ginger is thinking about it, but Siouxse is rather apprehensive.


None will allow us to stroke them when they are free ranging. I come close with Coco when I have a handful of corn, but I don't want to overdo it. Coco and Bettie Blue like to snuggle down together in coop and I can stroke them a little when they've just settled down for the night.


I've been trying to work out the pecking order, but either it's not sorted yet, or keeps changing. They all seem to have little head-to-heads but nothing major, and seconds later they're side by side pecking at the grass. Coco and Bettie Blue seem to be together quite often. Siouxsie is the most timid, but she might actually be top hen. Bettie Blue is used to be quite shy, but she's now the most vocal.


How well do you think I'm doing in understanding my hens? :D Should I be pushing the handling a little more, or is my softly-softly approach going to pay in the long term?

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I think your approach is working very well :D


Now that you have had them 10 days, I would use the opportunity when they first settle at night to remove them, one at a time, to give them a weekly inspection/health check (legs, under wings, vent). That serves two purposes: first, and foremost, if they should get mites/lice, by checking them weekly you will spot it sooner rather than later; second, the bonus, they get used to being handled so if the time should come and you do need to handle them to treat them, they will be used to it.


Not all hens like to be touch/handled/stroked so don't be too disappointed if they don't let you do it when they are FR. But, the weekly inspections are a way forward.

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When they are in lay you will find them much easier to handle as they will crouch for you when you approach. Much easier for you to do any or treatments inspections in daylight then. Occasional handfuls of chicken scratch as a treat will tempt them into coming towards you willingly. If you sit very still, you will have them eating out of your hand, literally. lol

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If they're young (ie not yet at point of lay), you probably won't find much of a pecking order yet - they're too young for that instinct to kick in.


I agree with the others though - frequent contact will get them used to you. The other thing you could do is reward them with a trear after handling them so they learn to associate humans with nice things ie. treats.

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@Mum, Thank you, and I will try getting them out and handling them when they're a little sleepy. It may have to wait until this weekend. Do you think it would still work an hour or more after they gone to bed? Which is when I get home in a evening.


@bottledcherryangel, Coco was running to me this morning and seemed rather disappointed I had no corn in my hand. No success with the others yet though. I will persevere (and twist them to my will :twisted: ).


@gongladosh, yes they are young (about 18wks) so that would explain the not so strong pecking order. So could things turn nasty in the future, or will the pecking order develop more gradually?


I'd love to keep up the frequent contact, but during the week they can only have about 45 minutes free ranging in the morning with me, and another hour in the evening with OH. Our quality time will be at the weekend, and then they will get spoil then, I think.

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