Tag / changing flocks

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Silver Lining

Sometimes, no matter what you do or how badly you want your flock to get along, it never comes to be.  I can remember looking into the feed store brooder and seeing little sleeping patchwork quilts of day old Silver Laced Wyandottes.  I had to have one.  Which one did I pick?  Well it wasn’t a sweet little sleeping one.  It was the one that was awake, with boundless energy, running everywhere.

Day old Dottie Speckles was the boss of the brooder where she lived with Dolly and our two week old Silkies.  Since I can remember, she has been boisterous, curious and loves pecking.  Over time, as she grew, it became clear to me that she enjoyed pecking things more than the other chickens.  I can recall, as she was moving up the pecking order, she decided to peck Dolly.  Typically, chickens will assert their flock position with a quick peck to another bird’s neck and get on with their business.  Poor Dolly, Dottie Speckles pecked at her repeatedly.  Dolly cowered close to the ground and just froze.  I had to intervene.  I was uncertain that Dottie Speckles would stop.  I often find her pecking at the Buff Orpington’s combs and now more recently Tilly.  Lately, the Silkies are rarely pecked by her.  They run from her.  They live in fear of Dottie Speckles and with good reason.  We have tried, treats, toys, pecking blocks and cabbages to no avail.  With added room in the run and free ranging, nothing seemed to make a difference in the personality of Dottie Speckles.

I began to research dealing with this type of behavior late last Summer, when it really started to affect the flock.  I searched for answers, read books, fellow blogs and many websites.  It soon became clear to me that despite what I did, hens can be mean like roosters.  I began to discuss the situation with fellow chicken friends and local farmers.  Many suggested getting rid of her.  I certainly wanted that to be my last resort.  Unfortunately, I knew after yesterday that I needed to take action.

I had spoken with a dear friend who has raised chickens for over 45 years.  She keeps a sweet little farm and B and B here on Cape Cod.  She is always so supportive. She suggested that when I was ready, a change of scenery and a new flock might do Dottie Speckles some good.  With a lump in my throat and a heavy heart, I knew yesterday that she was right.  Late yesterday afternoon, in the sleet, I scooped up Dottie Speckles and placed her in a box with shavings.

My daughter and I drove across town to the farm.  We dropped Dottie Speckles off.  Later that evening, under the cover of darkness, my friend placed Dottie Speckles in a nesting box with one of her sleeping Silkies.  Instantly, she told me that they snuggled together.  Morning came and she sent me a picture of Dottie Speckles in her new home.  Today, Dottie Speckles has been busy enjoying the sunshine and scratching in the run, getting acquainted with her new friends.  She is currently residing with assorted hens and a rooster.  For now, everyone seems to be getting along.  I am curious to see if living with a rooster will make a difference.  We will watch Dottie Speckles closely and see if a temporary flock change can break her feather plucking behavior.  If so, we just might be able to bring her home later in the Spring.

This morning, Tilly and the flock gave off an entirely different vibe without Dottie Speckles.  The Silkies were walking tall and intermingling with the bigger girls again.  Everyone seemed happy and relieved.  Their eyes are bright and their combs are a deep crimson red.  When we rehomed Chocolate, the flock was sad for a few days.  Today, this was not the case.  There was a sense of peace.

These decisions are never easy.  Despite best intentions and doing the best you can to meet all of your chicken’s foreseeable needs, sometimes chickens do not get along.  Sometimes no matter what, roosters and hens can be mean.  Sometimes, chickens develop bad habits such as pecking each other, eating eggs, laying outside the nesting boxes or pulling feathers.  How much is behavioral and how much is genetic?  I am hoping that things will improve with Dottie Speckles.  We had to make a decision in the best interest of the entire flock.  It was made out of love and carefully thought through. Sometimes the right decisions are never the easiest.  Even though I knew it was coming, nothing quite ever seems to prepare the heart to deal with loss, even if it is over a chicken.

In my new home

Photo Credit: LS