Sunday, 12 June 2011

Pecking for Power

I have observed the chickens a lot since we got them and I like to think that I know their personalities and behaviours quite well. I thought that Henny Penny was top of the pecking order, she is the biggest, she bosses them all around and she isn't shy to having a good go at the others if she isn't happy with them. Next I thought was Sandy, she pecks Pinky and Scragbag, but not too often and not viciously. Scragbag being third down because I have only ever seen her pick on Pinky, and there is always a group of three that stay together, Henny Penny, Sandy and Scragbag. Pinky has very much been sent to Coventry and she is rarely seen with the other three unless there are treats being offered and even then she has to hang back until the rest have finished.

So one night I noticed that actually Sandy is top of the Pecking order, followed by Henny Penny. She is my kind of leader, firm but fair and let you know what is expected of you and doesn't abuse her power. I noticed that she was top when we were watching them go in the coop one night. She got in first which isn't unusual, and all of the others were waiting and watching, when Henny Penny went up the ramp and into the coop Sandy gave her a good going over, more than I had ever seen. The other two were watching in anticipation and hung back for quite a while whilst Henny Penny tried to get past Sandy. Eventually she barged past, and the other two went up, both got pecked but not nearly as much as Henny Penny did. Once we shut the door behind them there was a massive commotion! The next morning Sandy was missing quite a few feathers on her chest and there was blood so I think Henny Penny didn't take light to being bossed around. This has happened every night since, so its not just Sandy vying to rule the roost.

The problem we have with our pecking order is that Pinky gets picked on and I feel very sorry for her. She barely has any feathers on her neck from when the others attack her, and she seems very lonely. She spends all day by herself and she sleeps in the nesting box away from the others too. I think sleeping separate is a good idea because she cant be harmed, but being so lonely cant be good for her health.

So what do we do? Part of me says that this is natural and I am thinking that I am labelling her with human emotion which she doesn't have, Pinky could well know her place and deals with it accordingly. But then the other side of me says that she doesn't look like a happy chicken, and should be keep her to one side and give her some TLC. If we did that how would she integrate back into the group?

I think one of the first things that I am going to do is make sure that they are living in optimum conditions, then I know that the things that I control are not what is affecting them and then I can review after a few weeks. I am going to look at sourcing a better quality feed, the availability of drinking water, boredom, and vitamins and treats. It will be hit and miss but I will be getting a good result at the end, happy chickens lay happy eggs, which make me lovely cake's!

I hope you have enjoyed my first post about the ladies, look out soon for more updates on how I have helped Pinky.

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