Monday, 23 August 2010

Blue Tack Drama

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.
In fact it was with Mrs Tufty that I had my first heart in the mouth moment a few days ago. Teddy and I were putting the girls to bed one evening, when a piece of blue tack that Teddy had been playing with unbeknownst to me plopped down into the pen. Quick as a flash Mrs Tufty was on it, trying to get it into her beak to swallow it down. It would probably kill her if she ate it so I knew I had to get it off her fast; easier said than done of course. Luckily it kept sticking to her beak then would drop back to the floor but I never knew a hen could be so quick. Every time it dropped she beat me to it, then she decided to run off with her prize to the far corner of the pen where she could eat in piece. There was nothing for it, I had to go in after her, so on hands and knees through the pen and god knows what else I chased after her. What commenced could only be described as a sort of undignified hen wrestling match, with Mrs Tufty in one corner and me in the other. After more pointless swiping at the blasted piece of blue tack and with her far superior chicken reflexes getting the better of me I had eventually to grab her, tuck her under one arm and physically prize it off her beak. The offending piece of blue tack is pictured above, post drama:
Mrs Tufty – 0  Jade – 1


skinnyfitkate said...

Wow! How have you suddenly got all that energy to get up at 6am each day??!! What happened to the lady that needed a full 9 hours sleep a night? LOL xx

Jade Parsley said...

I'm suffering Kate, I'm suffering