During the winter, I put all of my different breeds of hens together in one big house and run that hasn’t been used over the autumn month. This is the nearest run to my house so it makes life easier when it comes to keeping water containers from freezing and provides the girls with some grass that hasn’t been grazed for a while.
The boys are kept together in another run, away from the hens which allows them to recharge their batteries and more importantly gives the hens a rest from their constant attention.
I do the same for the ducks and drakes, again, giving them fresh pasture and bringing them closer to home to make my job easier.
I’m often asked how I manage to keep a run of cockerels together because cockerels will fight. It’s straight forward enough if you keep docile breeds (some Asian Hard Feather breeds will ALWAYS fight) and providing you don’t hurry things too much and follow a few simple rules.
- First of all, cockerels are territorial, they will protect their ‘territory’ (usually their run) from others.
- Secondly, they are competitive so if there are hens around, they will compete with one another. I remove the hens so that they are out of sight, then I decide which house and run the boys will end up in. This has to be a run that hasn’t had any of the boys in recently – in other words, it is neutral territory.
- I open the door to this run as well as the door to the boys runs. They can slowly leave their territory and go into the neutral territory and meet. There are usually a few squabbles but often, they will stay in their own territory and providing there is sufficient space, ignore one another in the neutral territory as they explore it, they are fine.
- They still get fed and watered and continue to sleep in their own house, but there is food in the new ‘neutral territory’ run too. After 3 or 4 weeks, I find they are tolerating one another and will come for food together in the new run and I stop feeding them in their own houses.
- After another couple of weeks, I transfer them at night into the new house together and shut their runs so they are now all together in the new territory. The next morning, I always make sure I am there at first light but more often than not, there aren’t many serious squabbles. This house is neutral territory so none of them feel they need to protect it as their own territory.
The smaller ‘summer’ runs now get to rest for a while and with luck, the frosty weather will kill off any worm eggs or larvae that are living in the ground. Hopefully before we get any frost, the grass will recover a little, ready for late winter / early spring when I re-populate the runs. That is if I can keep the rabbit numbers down but that’s another story!