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The Hens

Rehoming a hen (Henrietta)

23 May 2017
Henrietta eating watermelon with her new roommate, Goldie.

Henrietta eating watermelon with her new roommate, Goldie.

When you get new hens, you don’t know if they will get along together. You hope there won’t be a problem hen in the flock You have to give it some time as they become acquainted and the pecking order is established. When we bought two hens from one backyard flock, and two hens from another, we thought we’d made good choices. We considered breeds and age. All the hens were under a year old and all fairly good sized and known for egg production.

One speckled Sussex was quite striking. She had real spirit. When she scratched in the dirt, dust flew, and when food was brought to the flock, she was the first one to grab it. What became intolerable, was her constant picking on Zelda, the Easter egger and Marigold, the buff Orpington. She wouldn’t allow them to eat or drink. Their combs were covered with scabs as Marigold was taking bites out of them whenever they wandered too close.

One morning my friend across town called to tell me a fox had killed one of her two hens. She had had people for dinner and had been distracted when cleaning up. When she’d gone out at twilight to lock her hens up for the night, the hen was dead. She said she usually locked the two girls up in the late afternoon when the fox was in hiding. “Do you have a hen I could put with my lonely solitary one?” As a matter of fact, I did.

I am hoping that Henrietta, with a huge run with lots of room to peck and scratch, will be a good companion for a young sex-link. And, so far it has been ideal. They’re good friends and there is no other hen (to be “odd man out”) for Marigold to pick on. I’m hoping I’ve found Henrietta’s ideal home. I’ve learned that if there is a problem hen, sometime it is better to rehome her. A different environment and different companions might be just the thing for a problem hen.

Adding new hens

9 May 2017

Adding new hens to a flock is not easy!

Henrietta the Speckled Sussex hen.

Henrietta the Speckled Sussex hen.

What an experience we’re having trying to create (integrate) a small flock of four young hens. I bought two hens from a gal who had hand-raised six chicks. She advertised them as “10-month-old hens”. One, a speckled Sussex was quite striking and the other, a barred rock a nice looking, healthy hen. I DO like barred rocks. They are great layers. The previous owner wanted them to stay together as they were very bonded.

I paid $25 each for them. I think this was a fair price in our county.

We brought the two hens home and put them in in their new pen. They were a happy pair, scratching in the dirt, dust bathing, and laying in their new nest boxes.

On the Monday of the next week, we bought two pretty hens, also 10 months old. This was from a lady who had a chicken-and-egg farm in the south side of the county. The young hens were beautiful and I bought a Buff Orpington and a black Easter Egger. They were a bit smaller than the first hens I had bought and appeared less mature.

We put Team #2, the Buff Orpington and the Easter Egger, on the roost after dark. In the morning, all hell was breaking loose and “hell” and bullying has continued for 30 days. In the past week, there are times during the day when things seem quiet. But there was a time that Team #2 was being dragged from the nest boxes. We put a ladder in the coop for Team #2 to climb up on so their heads wouldn’t get bloodied. That has helped, they have a place to get away.

Though I know they are establishing their “pecking order”, this behavior is difficult to watch.

I wish that I had gotten 4 pullets from the same place, all the same age. It would have saved me much angst. The downside of having a hencam is, I can see all the “goings on” as the hens adjust. Not pleasant to watch.

Fox or Raccoon kills hens

4 March 2017
Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Sweetpea and Ginger have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Due to human error, our hens, Sweetpea and Ginger, were killed by a raccoon or fox.

We’d let the girls out in the garden for a little sunshine and free-ranging. The wind came up and blew down a large pine tree. The door to the henhouse blew shut. We were busy assessing damage all afternoon. Twilight came and from the house, the coop door appeared shut. Little did we remember our hens were let out that afternoon.

In the morning we found them dead.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox. It appears as if a fox or raccoon killed them in the night.




I am sick about this. I had nurtured Sweetpea after a dog attack and she was eight years old. That is old for a hen. Ginger was four years old and had been given to me by a neighbor. A sweet and gentle Buff Orpington.

These hens died as a result of “human error”. I will be getting 3-4 pullets soon. I will think twice before letting them out as I know bad things can happen. I feel awful!











Hens need winter greens

25 January 2016
Two hen in flowering schrub (Calendula).

Two hens in flowering shrub (Calendula).


And, like many of us seniors, our “senior” chickens need their winter greens each day. In Cambria, where we live, we have greens growing pretty much year around. We let the hens out of their coops for a few hours during the late afternoon to pick some greens from the garden. Their favorite greens, growing in the winter is, Tendergreen Mustard Spinach (komatsuna or Japanese mustard).


Grow greens for hens and family:

Tender green Mustard Spinach is easy-to-grow. It even will grow in the winter under light snow. You’ll need to re-seed every few months to keep a constant supply. If you’d like to grow your own, for your family or your hens, see Central Coast Gardening for details on growing komatsuna.


Penelope eating greens from my hand.

A hen eats greens from my hand.



Chickens also love French sorrel which is a perennial. It stays green year-around in Cambria. Once you get this started, you’ll always have “greens for your girls”.

If you don’t have much growing in your garden now, ask your grocery if he has some loose leaves you can take to your chickens. Be sure to save salad greens for your hens. We also keep a bale of green alfalfa in their sheltered outdoor area. It keeps them busy scratching through it when fresh greens are not available.

Just like us, chickens thrive with greens in their diet and they know what’s good for them.