The Silver Lining

February 3, 2012

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


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15 thoughts on “The Silver Lining”

  1. We felt the same way when we rehomed our 3 roosters in late fall. The hens were always so stressed and timid around 2 of the roosters. It was sad to see them go and we miss them, but our hens are much happier! Sometimes difficult things have to be done. Hang in there!

  2. I so much enjoy your posts!
    Yesterday I was shaken together with you and fearful there might be a fox in the coop – today I felt for naughty Dottie! She is so beautiful! I am sure she will learn to behave and will be back home soon! I miss her! 🙂

  3. My Golden Laced Wyandotte is/was a feather puller as well.She had been doing this to the girls and the rooster way before I actually saw her.I sat down in the run one day and watched-it was awful,she was pulling feathers from everyone,all day long.Was I going to have to get rid of her!Someone mentioned filing her top beak down,we did and as soon as I put her down she was pulling more feathers.I picked her back up and hubby filed more off this time and it worked.I still keep an eye on her though.I still have alot of bare bottom hens.

  4. Thank you so much everyone for such kind and thoughtful words of love and encouragement. They mean so much to me and certainly make this a bit easier to go through.

  5. Oh, I know how tough this was for you. But you did the right thing. I went through the exact same thing with my Pumpkin. And looking back, Pumpkin was a pill right from the beginning. Always trying to chest bump the other babies, in the brooder. And Ginger wouldn't bump back. She'd run. And thus their year long battle of Pumpkin chasing Ginger started. The flock will be happier and quieter now.

  6. What a hard decision– but look at how your girls have responded positively in so short a time! Hopefully the re homing will be good a good match and everyone can live happy lives.

  7. So hard to make decisions like this. I've been there. I hope it all works out for everyone. A rooster does have quite an effect on the hens around him. May be a very good learning experience for her.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story about Dottie Speckles. I know that was not an easy decision to make, but sounds like the reactions from the rest of your flock tell you it was a good choice for them. Thanks for sharing the fun stuff and the not so fun stuff that comes with having critters in your life. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from you!

  9. Thank you so much. I feel so supported by all of your kindness. It has not been easy for us, but you taking the time to leave us words of encouragement is so special and appreciated.

  10. I had to read this post again as we are in the midst of making the same decision about out hen Ginger. She's a beautiful, boisterous RIR, but is independent and if she doesn't another hen, she lets them know about it. I worry about mixing my three new babies in a house with her. It breaks my heart to rehome her after raising her from a chick (a little runty one at that!) but she will be going with a family member to a larger home, hopefully with more hens to keep her in line.

    • Oh Dordalina, I am so sorry to hear of the difficult situation that you are facing. It is never easy to make these decisions. It sounds as though you made the right one. I am thinking of you.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.