In an effort to expand our flock with an eye to selling eggs, we’ve added two pullets to our flock. We perused the Craigslist ads and found a local person selling 12-week-old pullets. “Pullet”s is the term for adolescent female chickens — teenagers, if you like. “Cockerels” is the male equivalent.
We bought one barred rock (black-and-white-striped) and one buff orphington (blonde) pullets. The buff has already been named in honor of Carrie Fischer, but we haven’t decided on a name for the barred rock. All of our chickens are named after stars who have died before their time. Our flock currently consists of Whitney Houston, Prince, Phillip “Philly” Seymour Hoffman, and Janice Joplin.
When picking up the new girls, we looked for mite bites, runny beaks, or other signs of illness before bringing them home. We haven’t created a dedicated chicken transporter, but a milk crate with a secured cardboard lid. Two chickens fit comfortably but up to three could be transported this way if needed.
Pullets can’t be thrown right in with a flock because they are smaller and vulnerable to gang attack. You may already know that the term “pecking order” comes from the hierarchical structure of a chicken flock. Usually the top of the flock is a rooster, but in his absence, a hen will take on the lead role (in some cases she’ll even stop laying eggs while in the dominant position). Under the head hen are the others. The pullets will be at the bottom of this structure. This is made visible when food or other resources are fought over: the higher-up chickens get more and the lower-down hens get chased away. If the pullets were put right in the midst of this, they might be pecked to the point of breaking skin. Once blood is visible, that chicken might die if not removed immediately, as the chickens are attracted to the red color.
The pullets, then, were put in a coop within a coop. It has water and food, as well as a fence separating the flock from the new girls. This lets the chickens get used to seeing one another without the possibility of the flock mobbing the pullets. After a few days, we opened small gaps in the fence. The pullets can squeeze through them but the full-grown girls have trouble navigating the narrow space. This lets the pullets get out into the general population but also gives them a place to run to for protection, if needed.
This has allowed the pullets to venture out into the greater coop and run areas. They still get chased around by the more dominant chickens, but they have a safe place to go.