Thursday, April 1, 2010

chicken report {no.7}

Girls can be mean to each other, but in the chicken world, they’re downright vicious. The drama that plays out in our hen house rivals that of any high school. I mentioned briefly the other day that we have a sick chicken. A week ago or so, I noticed she was missing a few feathers and her comb looked shriveled and pale compared to the others. Every time I went to visit them, she was alone, sitting on the roost while the others played outside, or lying in a patch of shade away from the group. I didn’t make much of it. Bringing them food scraps one day, she sprang to her feet to enjoy the heaps of lettuce and onions along with the others. One by one the hens pecked at her, barring her from the treats. She’d scoot off but try to make another attempt. They pecked and pecked until she finally went inside and sat on the roost again. I watched throughout the day. She was excluded from the food and water and from any of the reindeer games. The next morning my husband found her with blood on her breast along with a gaping wound. They were still pecking at her when he walked in. These girls weren't messing around, and we knew we had to get her out of there.

We promptly made a shelter from an old dog cage. When we first put her in I could tell she was devastated as she looked over at the others with absolute panic. She wanted to be with them even though they were abusing her. Sadly, it’s what she knows. It’s what she’s comfortable with. We put a tarp around her cage, so she couldn’t see them, and she finally settled down. Quickly, she grasped how good life was for her in her new home, mainly because she had endless, uninterrupted access to the food and water. A few days passed, but she never laid an egg.

Then the rains came and we had to scurry to fix her shelter. Standing out in the cold rain, trying to make a proper home for this sick bird, I couldn’t help but ask myself if we were making too much of this. The farmers around here would just put her down; after all, she wasn’t even producing eggs anymore. But my husband and I have not really taken to this rough and tumble approach.

Though I had my doubts, and the endless rain put more stress on the situation, I am very proud to report that she laid her first egg two days ago and another yesterday. Her comb looks pinker too. Now we’re on to the next challenge: having her hold her own when we put her back in the hen house. This should be interesting. I hope those mean girls prove me wrong and show a little compassion. Am I asking too much from animals with brains the size of a peanut?