I've put off getting new hens for months; mainly because neither of us could face the thought of more months trying to prevent our Black Rocks, who are the Al Capones of the hen world, making determined efforts to keep the hen population at what they considered an acceptable level: them, and their hench hen. Last time we got new hens it took months of keeping the hens separately, Black Rocks patrolling the dividing fence like sharks hoping for seals, before peace finally broke out.
It's not as if our hens lack space. Here is the hen area at Badger Towers, all surrounded by electric fence.
They have a large bramble hedge that they spend hours and hours in. "What do they do in there?" I asked my husband. "Just chill, like teenagers," he said. I think that's pretty much it, though now it is blackberry time, they do make the occasional foray out to snaffle any blackberries which have ripened since the last time they looked. Or have a sandbath in any one of many they have dug out in their time with us. Here's one:
They are not short of things to do, or of space, both supposed to be contributors to violence. My Black Rocks are just thugs. Born mean, and carried on mean. Here is Tiger, chief hench hen of Queen Hen, Bess.
Tiger and I had just had words when this picture was taken. We have two new hens, Scrabbles II and Pandora II, a Bluebelle and Light Sussex respectively. Yesterday we carefully fenced off an area of the field for the new hens. They loved it. The Black Rocks clocked the fact they were there, but did not seem too bothered. Result, we thought. I went back a couple of hours later, to find the enclosure empty as the new hens had flown out and into the main field. The others were still not too bothered.
Today of course they have remembered that gang violence is quite fun.
I don't know if it's because their horrible natures are sweetened by the huge intake of blackberries, or whether because the yarrow's quite high at the moment they can't see the new hens so easily, but the violence is more what I'd expect from normal hens, so I've left them to it. The poor new hens do have quite a bit to contend with besides the Black Rocks and finding their way around; the wind for one, as Badger Towers is always up there at the front of the queue for any wind that's going. It must be like negotiating a prairie for them.
And then there's me, probably first cousin to a known hen killer. I am slowly, with the aid of mealworms, persuading them that I am a good thing. At least the face below is an interested one (if a little mad) rather than one fleeing in horror.