I was chatting with my sister this week when she asked me to send her pictures of each of our chickens so she could know who I was talking about. This either reflects her ‘deep’ interest in hens … or my incessant talking about them. 😉 I’ll let you pick…
Top of the pecking order is Lily. She has been with us for three years now. The only one of the original seven to still be here. She has me totally figured out. If I even think of walking toward the feed bin with the millet in it … she is first at my ankles. I she senses that I have a peanut – or even part of a peanut – in my pocket she leaps up that high to see if she can snatch it away before I even notice. She makes sure the other hens know that she is the current Queen and can do that with the slightest tip of her head in their direction.
Second in status is Sophie. Hers was a hard earned spot in the pecking order. She arrived about a year and half ago. She had been the bottom of the pecking order in a flock down the road. The poor girl had a hard moult and then the others wouldn’t let her alone … so she had a perpetually bare and sore back and shoulders. When she arrived here we made her a ‘chicken cape’. That allowed her the time to slowly (and it sure was SLOW!) grow back her feathers. She is a shining beauty now. She is either found hanging out with Lily or with Paddy … or sometimes just roaming on her own up in the woods.
Next in line are the Tweedles. They look so much alike that unless you are able to get a good look at their beaks or their combs (to count the spikes) you cannot tell them apart. But when you do get to know them they are very different.
Tweedle Deb is the dominant of the twins. She is very curious and will hop up onto perches – explore interesting places to walk – sit beside me on the bench and sometimes behind me – from where she will nip at my ear to get my attention. She LOVES peanuts and has perfected the art of scooting into the fray to grab a piece and then runs for cover to enjoy it in peace. She is a good ‘grubber’ and hauls a hefty load of bugs out of the leaf litter in the woods.
Tweedle Dee was the bottom of the pecking order here for almost a year. She has an unevenly matched beak. (I will not be supporting the industry again that cuts these layer’s beaks when they are chicks so they won’t peck at each other in crowded barns … live and learn!) She identified with me early on – discovering that unlike the other hens I would hold seed aside for her so she could have the time she needed to get it past that long lower beak. Now when I arrive at the gate to the paddock she comes running and hangs around my ankles while I clean up. She became a bit of a loner this spring. But when the newbies arrived she slowly began to move away from the hens above her and has started to hang with Lindy and Roxie.
These girls are this spring’s newbies. They hang together … most of the time.
Lindy is the gentlest little hen I’ve ever met. She is definitely people oriented. She still shies away from the ‘big girls’ … preferring to quietly spend her time either on her own or with Roxie. She too has decided that I am her refuge in any storm. She will fly up onto my shoulder if being chased by the bullies or search me out to see if I have anything special I could offer her to eat. She is very soft – and small for her breed. And she is a cuddler. If I sit down in the paddock or the Chicken Cafe she will jump right up searching for the warmth of my hands and lap.
Roxie is our drama queen. And she has every right to be! She is a bantam – which makes her much smaller than the others. She is very different in colouring – which makes the others target her. She has feathers on her feet that make it look like she has big slippers on when she tries to run. And when she DOES run you can hear her squawking for help. She is feeling more confident every day though – and has been the first (of she and Lindy) to start to venture out with the ‘big girls’ into the woods and down into the front paddock. She also is quite comfortable with roaming on her own. Sometimes in the evening I have to go search her out to bring her in. She lays tiny eggs with BIG yolks!
Paddy is our rooster. He arrived just in time for St. Patrick’s Day this spring. We were nervous about getting another rooster … Goldie had been such a sweetheart. But we won the rooster lottery with Paddy. He is a big fella – and a gentle giant. He takes such good care of all of the hens. Some days he finds himself running in different directions as he guards them in the two groups they have formed. We love watching him herd them home from the paddock in the early evening. And love even more when we see him stepping in between the ‘bullies’ and the ‘newbies’ to calm the waters. He is even a cuddly guy who loves to sit on my knee and be stroked and warmed up!
I have been surprised – again and again – by how much I enjoy sitting and watching these guys. They are fascinating personalities. And they have a great social system to navigate. They are smart – they know their names – they know me – and they recognize Kyla and Lexi when they return for visits. They have mastered how to co-exist with the jennies and the goats. And they have an uncanny ability to know the boundaries of our home territory. They lay us between 2 and 5 delicious eggs a day. I’m thinking chickens are going to be with me for the rest of my country living days!