I would love to write a book called Mrs. Dashwood’s Butt. I’m not sure what it would be about, and it probably wouldn’t have anything to do with Mrs. Dashwood’s butt, or maybe it would? I do like Mrs. Dashwood’s butt. It is so fluffy it makes me want to pat it. I do not pat it though because she absolutely would not like it. I admit to sneaking pats sometimes when I am urging her up the ladder to the coop at night, then she doesn’t seem to notice. At the moment, Mrs. Dashwood is molting so her usually fluffy butt is diminished and somewhat bare. When all the feathers grow back, it will be magnificent.
Elinor is not yet molting but is her usual imperious self with a side of extra grump. Because, you see, the Nuggets have moved in. She is not pleased. Every time she looks at me I feel like I am being accused of a crime, perhaps an attempt to supplant her. This is not the case, however. The Nuggets are supposed to be an addition to the flock, new friends. Both flock and friends is a stretch right now. Tolerate is the word of the day.
The Nuggets, for their part, are well aware the Dashwoods want nothing to do with them and keep themselves clumped together and at a distance.
The Nuggets relocated to their new digs a week ago Saturday. James and I were going to keep them in the house one more week, but they were all flying up to the top of the child gate around their brooder, and it was evident that if they stayed another week, we’d be chasing them around the house. So we let the Dashwoods out into the main garden and snuck the Nuggets out to the coop. We put the child gate across the middle of the coop to keep them segregated so they could get used to their new home. To say the Nuggets were freaked out would be an understatement.
The Dashwoods were out in the garden all day and didn’t realize the Nuggets were in the coop until it was almost dark and they went in for bed. At that point the Nuggets had settled in and were piled together quiet and sleepy. Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood shrugged their chicken shoulders and went to sleep on their side of the barrier.
In the morning, no one was complaining. The Dashwoods stayed closed in the run while James and I went out that morning for the St. Paul Classic bike ride. When we returned, showered, and then lunched, we decided that keeping the barrier up all week seemed pointless and we should just get it all over with.
We let the Dashwoods out into the garden and took the barrier down. The Nuggets had a panic attack. They stayed inside the coop for hours, daring only to poke their heads out the door to look around at the strange new world. Elinor decided she needed to lay an egg and was so pissed off over the Nuggets in the coop, she dug a nest in the brush pile next to the compost bin in the garden. Mrs. Dashwood, flustered at this turn of events, stood by Elinor’s nest while she was on it, loudly complaining about being evicted from their home.
Finally, Sia dared come out of the coop and down the ladder into the run. Once she was out the other two followed. And then it was only 10-15 minutes before they ran out into the chicken garden and under the elderberry, which, I think, must be a kind of chicken heaven because the Dashwoods love it under there too.
When the Dashwoods wandered back into the chicken garden we closed them out of the main garden, hoping they would interact with the Nuggets. Nope. The Nuggets stayed on one side of the garden and the Dashwoods on the other.
I had imagined horrible squawking and pecking and feathers flying between the Dashwoods and the Nuggets when they were all together, an assertion of dominance and establishing of the pecking order. I did not imagine them refusing to interact.
But of course they have. Because during the week when James and I are at work they are all closed in the run together. The Nuggets clearly give the Dashwoods space and the Dashwoods clearly are unconcerned about the Nuggets, except that they are annoyed by them. When I come home from work in the late afternoons and open the run to let them all out into the garden, they are each at opposite ends, the Nuggets at the far end under the coop and the Dashwoods by the door. This morning when I let them all out right into the garden, the Dashwoods sailed out first and the Nuggets remained in the coop until they were certain the Dashwoods had left. Then they ran out and into the garden too.
The Nuggets are half their grown size and still babies. I am having so much fun watching them explore the garden and make discoveries. Every leaf is something to taste, every unrecognizable spot in the dirt is something to peck. When they were indoors we would bring in sprigs of wood sorrel for them. They love wood sorrel with a passion, even more than the Dashwoods do. The moment they recognized the wood sorrel in the garden, they squealed in delight and immediately started chowing down. Their first explorations pretty much followed the patches of wood sorrel buffet.
Because they are still small, I check on them frequently. Yesterday I sat in the shade on the steps to the chicken garden watching them run around. They eventually all came over to me. Sia is a bold one and stood next to me, looked me right in the face and proceeded to tell me a story before she got distracted and ran off. Lucy is not so bold. She hangs back, startles easily, and likes to see what’s what before committing to anything. When Sia ran off, she followed.
Ethel, she’s a sweetheart. When the other two left, she stuck around, talking to me. I would not have been surprised if she jumped onto my lap. She might just do that one of these days. But this time she laid down in the space beneath my legs while I told her how pretty she is and she told me the news. She stayed there longer than I expected, until she heard Sia getting excited about something and had to go see what it was. FOMO is real even for chickens.
The little Nuggets are sometimes hard to spot in the garden. To find them I first listen for their loud peeping; they do not have their big chicken voices yet, though sometimes their voices crack like an adolescent boy’s. Once I zoom in on the area they are in from their voices, I can then start looking. And at this point, they are usually easy to find, well Sia is. Just look for the white bouncing bouffant. Where she is, the other two will be.
Hopefully Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor will eventually resign themselves to the Nuggets and become an integrated flock. If not in the next few weeks, then by winter when it gets cold and having five bodies together at night will be much warmer than only two.
There are lots of other garden things to talk about but the chickens won an entire post this time. The rest will have to wait.