Pecking Order? Do Hens Fight?
I love cold, frosty mornings! I know it is Thanksgiving and all about turkeys, but I have a delightful chicken story that is funny! And it all started one cold, frosty morning…
And it was a good one. Everything was glittering white, with new sunshine streaming through the backyard pines. So, bundled up, I’m outside enjoying the crispness, the newness, the glittering breath-ability of it all, my breaths white as I inhale and then exhale. As I walked around, I strolled by my chicken coop and pens, as I do almost every morning, to check on my fluffy, feathery, gals and guys.
And that’s when I saw her! By the water cooler!
Now, my flock is a mixture of heritage and sex-link chickens. Heritage chickens are old breeds that are not in the chicken producing market anymore. They come from all over the world, and most are listed in The Livestock Conservatory. Sex-link chickens are crossbred chickens whose color at hatching is differentiated by sex, thus making chick sexing an easier process. Sex-links are wonderful layers, and can lay up to 300 eggs per year, according to their individual breed.
My mixed flock loves to hang around “the water cooler,” as I like to put it. It is their job to lay me eggs, and my job is to provide water, food, dirt to dust in, and a nice straw filled, cozy nest box to do their thang! (Smile here)
One of my hens is a rose combed, brown, Leghorn, and this breed is listed as “recovering” at The Livestock Conservatory. This breed is kept mostly for eggs. So, in the fall when all the other hens were going through their annual molting process, Brownie was busy laying me nice, large, white eggs.
TIP: When hens go through their yearly molting, they don’t lay, all their protein goes into growing new feathers for the winter months.
Then, in the middle of winter, I noticed something so strange, Brownie was molting. She was doing it nicely, growing new feathers and shedding old ones, still covered in feathers, old and new.
But on this cold frosty morning, I saw her hunkered down by the water cooler, bloody, almost half of her feathers gone. Needless to say, I stopped my joyful, frosty morning walk and ran to her. I knew immediately what had happened. The other hens had pecked her down in their pecking order. She was half frozen. I had to save her!
I ran back into the house and grabbed an old towel, and then ran back. She was so frozen she couldn’t move. I wrapped her up, and ran back into the house. I gave her to Homie, got a small dog kennel, and layered it with more old towels (We keep them for things like this.) We put her in it, and I warmed a towel by the stove and placed it on top of her.
We had a short trip planned that day, to fetch our granddaughter to stay with us. I didn’t know what condition Brownie would be in when we got back. But when we arrived back home that evening, she was up in her cage with the towels thrown off. So we watered her and fed her. She gobbled it up.
My four year old granddaughter felt so sorry for poor Brownie that she went outside, bless her heart, and brought in a dry twig and put it in Brownie’s cage and said, “That’s something for Brownie to play with while in her cage.” Wasn’t that sweet?
And so…we had a chicken in the house for the next unforeseen weeks. Every day it was clean, feed, and water Brownie. And for exercise, I had to let her walk around while I shadowed her with paper towels and Clorox wipes for poo droppings. Nothing I ever wanted to do, but I had to save Brownie!
On Brownie’s third week, our granddaughter came back to stay with us. She came running to me exclaiming, “Come and see!” When I went to see, she said, “Look at Brownie! She’s grown her feathers!” Then she bent down to the cage and said, all smoochy-like, “Good job, Brownie. I’m so proud of you.” She is a hoot!
She had grown new feathers, but they were short. Brownie wasn’t ready for cold weather yet. A week later, still winter, we begun to have a warm streak where the temperature went up to seventy degrees. It was the perfect time to re-incorporate Brownie back into the flock, as her feathers, still not quiet mature, covered her well. I put her in an empty pen beside the hens for a week, for them to get a feel for each other again. A chicken peeking order can be brutal! After a week of warmth, I put Brownie back into the pen with the other hens. As I suspected, as I waited, two hens tried to fight her. But Brownie is hardy and feisty! She fought them off, and reestablished her place in the order. Good job, Brownie!
I look forward to many more of Brownie’s nice, large, white eggs.
This is my saga, my chicken story of “a chicken in the house,” something I never thought I’d do, and I’m sticking to it. This was an unusual happening at the homestead.
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Love, from Romance & The Homestead,