While it is convenient to treat all our chickens the same, sometimes their individual needs lead us to create specialized setups and personalized care.
With our first 3 chickens, we had one coop and one yard. As our little flock grew, we remodeled the hen house and extended the run. We got an extra coop to temporarily house the new chickens and allow a smooth introduction (see "Introducing new chickens"). All our chickens had similar needs, and all got along once they found their place in the pecking order.
Then came Peppa, the little blind bantam who was bullied in her previous flock. We tried to integrate her into ours, but her blindness and her size put her at a major disadvantage. She couldn’t see the others coming and ran away scared when they approached. We decided it was best to give her her own little coop with her own private yard. She loved it and was able to live a peaceful life.
When Sophie and Lucie, our first turkeys, joined our sanctuary, we knew they had different needs. They needed a bigger house with easy access (no ladder) and no perch. Also, their feeding requirements were quite different as we had to keep their weight in check. We gave them a little barn with a ramp, and we modified the door to the chicken run so they couldn’t access the chicken food.
We learned later the hard way that turkeys and chickens shouldn’t be sharing the same space (Lucie died of blackhead disease, a fatal disease passed on by chickens), so we created a separate yard for them.
After Lucie’s death, we brought Addie into our sanctuary. Unfortunately, Sophie and Addie didn’t get along, so we had to split their yard in two. We also split their barn for a while, but they now seem to be okay sleeping together. With her fighty spirit, Addie has no problem antagonizing our dog through the fence, so we had to move her to the section against the back fence.
Individuals across species have distinct needs, but even members of the same species are different and require personalized care. Sometimes even, the needs of an individual change as she becomes ill or simply ages.
Ginger, our very first hen, is now 13 years and the oldest of the flock. Over the last 2 years, she started to slowly lose her vision. When the other hens started bullying her around the feeder and at bedtime, we moved her to Peppa’s little coop at night so she could dine and sleep in peace. She continued spending her day with everyone in the big yard, until she told us that she would rather sleep in in the mornings, take naps in her house in the middle of the day, and snack during the day rather than having a big dinner in the evening. She now has her own private yard where she can be near her friends and be protected from the antics of the younger ones at the same time. She loves her retirement home and is so much more serene than before.
And then of course, there is Sweetie. She came to us with a huge head injury that took a couple of months to heal. She also had salpingitis. Once her wound was closed, we tried to integrate her into the main flock without success. The hens probably sensed her illness, and she doesn’t defend herself or even run away from them. We also tried to see if she would get along with Ginger but it didn’t work out. So, we set up another living space just for her by partitioning the main coop.
Today, we have 4 coops and 5 yards for our 9 chickens and 2 turkeys! Add an extra coop and yard for our 4 foster hens!!
Yes, I wish everyone would be living under the same roof and share the same yard, especially when it comes to cleaning time! But each bird is an individual and deserves personalized care.