Life with our new hens is falling into a rhythm now. Up at six am to let them out, fill up their feeder, change their water, clean up last night’s chicken poop, then run home before Teddy starts complaining that I have been gone too long. Back up to the hens again later in the morning to check for eggs, yet another change of their water (I have learned that hens have an extraordinary capacity to fling dirt around, most of which ends up in their water dispenser) and to have a little chat with my new feathered friends and check how they are all getting along with each other. Then back at dusk to put them all to bed.
Two Tone seems to be emerging as ‘Top’ hen. By far the biggest I’ve noticed all the other hens deferring to her, and one quick peck on the comb sends them scurrying away into the corner. Apparently this rather nasty behaviour is quite normal as the hens literally establish a new ‘pecking order’, and is a necessary bit of unpleasantness until the new hierarchy is formed. All these hens were new to each other when we first got them, having lost their former cage mates either to the slaughter house or more hopefully (but more unlikely) to other rescue homes.
I have noticed that Mrs Tufty must be bearing some of the burden of this bullying as her comb is sometimes slightly bloodied from where another hen has been pecking her. While this is unfortunate for the poor hen it has helped to endear her to me, along with little Feathers who is also mercilessly bullied and is by far the smallest and lightest of all the girls. Mrs Tufty and Feathers therefore get singled out for special treatment, especially as they seem so friendly and are always the most inquisitive on my frequent visits to the hen enclosure. I have started getting them out of their pen and letting them walk about with the other hens, partly as an experiment to see what will happen and also because I can’t resist giving them an experience of increasing freedom. Now they have come to expect their little outings whenever they see me and get very excited. Teddy especially loves it when I get them out for a walk, especially as Mrs Tufty follows him about pecking at his green boots which makes him squeal with laughter.