Liz : I wanted to comment on the folks who lost hens to predators. I am certified in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in people and was very curious to see how my hens would react after a wicked bobcat made a meal of 3 of my hens. The rest of the hens were extremely traumatized and stayed up on a very high roost for several days. I chopped down the tree that pierced the top of the coop wire and covered over the hole (only about 10″–I don’t know how the cat got in–had to squeeze in.) and then took each hen out to see the covered hole. All the feathers were removed from the hen house and the dead girls were buried appropriately with lime put over them prior to the dirt.
It took about 6 weeks for the hens to settle down and come out to forage during the day. I added 7 red comets to the flock shortly after that. When I go into the hen house at night, all the comets are sleeping on the floor–relaxed and lolly-gagging without a care in the world. The older girls who witnessed the massacre are still roosting way up next to the roof. I doubt they will ever quite recover. We give them lots of pets and some good scratching to reassure them. They did not lay for 2 months but are making up for it–one a day from each, even the auracanas!
As for adding hens to a flock, I am no expert but have had success as long as I put them in when they are fairly mature. The big hens will be quite territorial about the food so the little ones have to get it while the big girls are out shopping for their earthworms and grubs. They keep to themselves, as though a separate flock, until they get almost fully grown and then they all seem to just flock together! Thanks again for all your help and I do love the newsletter! Liz in Prescott, Az.