Is anyone wondering how the chickens are doing? Well, here's an update.
Our Black Australorpe hen was fascinated by Smoky and her Bandits. Here she's craning her neck to see into the pen.
For the first few days Smoky had her Bandits with her, we kept this fire screen around the stall door when it was open during the day. This kept the chicks in and the older hens out. (Chickens will sometimes pick on babies.)
As the chicks started exploring more, the older hens (and the rooster) started hanging around the firescreen, trying to catch glimpses of them.
Meanwhile Smoky was doing great with her nine Bandits. She hasn't lost any yet.
She's a patient mother, letting the chicks climb all over her.
It always cracks me up, how those chicks can hide so thoroughly in her feathers.
But at last we took the firescreen from the door and let Smoky outside. We trusted her to defend her chicks if the other chickens got too bullying. In fact, the other chickens haven't bothered the Bandits at all.
Soon she was all over the barn with them.
Meanwhile we had the half-grown chicks still in the inside cage in the coop. Adult chickens tend to pick on half-grown birds, so we wanted to give them a chance to get bigger before taking their lumps. For the last few days, however, we've kept the interior cage door open. The half-grown chicks have gotten pecked a few times (hey, "pecking order" is called that for a reason!) but they're getting bolder and bolder about exploring their world.
They other hens are leaving them alone. Presumably the pecking order is firmly established by now.
See? Daddy (our rooster Snap) isn't bothering his bandits at all...
...though they seem a little over-awed by him.
Right now we have thirty birds of various ages running around the yard. We'll have to "off" some roosters as we find out how many we have, but for the time being everything is peaceful among our flock. Phew!