After our beautiful rooster Nigel died this winter we decided not to get another rooster right away. One fine spring day we heard a commotion in the chicken yard and came out to find our flock mingled with half a dozen other hens plus two roosters. These all came from the neighbors uphill. The funniest thing was, all the hens laid in our coop!
The situation rapidly settled out. The young New Hampshire Red rooster who lives at the neighbors now runs two flocks: 1. the neighbor’s and 2. ours! We let our chickens out between 10 and 1 to forage in the hollow. The rooster comes down at intervals and rounds them up. That’s one hard working rooster! He sleeps with his own flock, and we close up the electric fence at night.
So in practice our flock and the neighbor’s flock have mingled. Our flock is also exposed to the wild ducks in Duck Hollow. If we were quarantining against disease with these heritage hens we’d have to get a larger fence than 4′ and keep them in all the time.
Along about mid-March two of the hens went broody, one of the Black Australorps and the Buff Sussex. They platooned on the nest, taking turns with the eggs. There were about a dozen eggs, but only one of them hatched.
Please note that none of the books on our reasonably well stocked chicken guide bookshelf have any guidance about what we are doing. They all assume you are either going to have three roosterless hens in your backyard or run a commercial operation. Letting your chickens grown their own chickens is not among the options. The guidebooks did say to sequester your broody hens and new chicks. When one of the chicks hatched we decided to put the Black Australorp who was doing most of the sitting in her own henhouse.
That one chick was the only one that hatched. After a couple of weeks we moved them both to a larger coop inside the electric fence where they could move around and take dirt baths. The chick developed to look rather like the Buff Sussex, so probably isn’t her own chick, but the Australorp treats that chick like her own.
This week the chick is in the two month old range and has gotten big enough that we don’t worry so much about predators. We’ve let mom and young chicken out, and both are now running and roosting with the rest of the flock. We still don’t know the sex of that chick. We probably won’t know until it either crows or lays! Either way we plan to keep it – we’ll either have another hen, or our own rooster again.
Now the Buff Sussex is sitting on a clutch of eggs, another dozen or so. We’re just leaving her alone. We’re getting more eggs than we can eat at present.
So here’s our flock as of June:
1 Black Australorp, laying
1 Black Australorp, not laying, but so attached to her sister that we are keeping her
1 Buff Sussex, broody
1 White Sussex, laying
1 Gold Star, laying
1 unsexed chick
Borrowed neighborhood rooster
We’ve hit a kind of equilibrium where we buy a stable amount of organic feed, get a stable amount of eggs, and the flock mostly runs itself.
Oh, on mareks: all our chickens are innoculated except the new chick. I sent off for the vaccine, but the books all say to vaccinate 1 day old chicks, and the chick was about a week when the vaccine came. We have it in the refrigerator and plan to use it if/when we see a new chick. It’s not going to be fun because we’ve never seen anyone do it and we’re likely to be clumsy, but it seems like the responsible thing to do for the health of the flock.