This is the story of our integrating a new alpha adult bird into our flock. Still smarting from our horrific experience with Violet, I had plans to slowly introduce Granite, our adopted adult Barred Rock hen, into our flock. If it took weeks, it would take weeks, was my thinking. Granite was the alpha of her flock and I fully expected a prolonged butt-whipping of her from our existing big, bad, alpha – Zelda.
We got Granite on a warm sunny day and put her in a separate cage from the flock where she would be safe and we could keep an eye on her. And then the cold weather came in and it rained and rained and rained. Poor Granite, used to an existing flock, now had no one to roost with.
A new chicken to any flock *should* be isolated for 30 days. We’re actually running into problems in New Hampshire with sick birds infecting existing flocks. To do anything otherwise is to be stupid. Well I was stupid, this is yet another case of do what I say and not what I do. But in my defense I knew the flock Granite came from, I knew there was no disease, it was a local flock, and well, I was worried that Granite was going to get ill from being chilled (yes, the temperatures dropped that low.)
After about 8 days of rain and isolation, she didn’t appear to have any signs of illness so I decided to try her with a few of our birds in an effort to slowly introduce her to the flock.
I put Granite on the ground and put one of our Americaunas with her. They hardly noticed each other. I put another bird in with Granite and the same thing happened. All peacefully went their own way. Well isnt’ this strange, I thought.
But I knew that our alpha Zelda was not going to be so blasé so I carefully picked up Zelda and brought her over to the pen.
“Go gentle on her.” I advised our revered leader as I placed her near Granite.
They circled each other. They gave each other the evil eye and then they rose, claws outstretched, to do battle. They attacked once, twice and then Granite got Zelda in what only could be called a death neck grip and she pecked our bird on the head three times.
Zelda got up and our former alpha quickly scurried away.
And that was it.
With just a tiny, little battle, Granite has taken over our flock. All other flock members bowed to her.
Maybe Zelda (who is getting a little old) was just looking for a chance to abdicate her throne. Let the young whipper-snapper have it, she might have thought, I want to spend my days scratching in the garden and reading New York Times bestsellers.
Or maybe Zelda was truly outclassed by Granite.
All I know is that with very little commotion Granite joined our flock and not only did she join but she sat herself on that iron throne (nesting box) in our hen house. That night Granite slept (nice and warm) in the coop and there has been absolutely no problems since. We have a new alpha and Granite has made herself a new home.
And if you want to find Zelda, she’ll be the one in the corner knitting scarves and clucking softly about the good ‘ol days.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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