Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Can't we all just get along?

Remember back in June when we sent 4 of our hens packing to a friends farm?  A few months ago, they brought in a couple more hens and 2 roosters in hopes of maybe incubating eggs and raising chicks.  Well 6 hens is not enough for 2 roosters plus they are kept in a large stall in the barn with no access to the outside world.   I believe those chickens are bored.  They need to be let outside and giving more room to roam. After a visit to the friend's farm this past Saturday, it was discovered that both roosters were fighting over one of the Buff's AND beating her up in process. They weren't doing this to the other hens.  She looked pretty ragged (especially next to our Bonnie) with a bald patch on her back and missing feathers behind her comb. 


 I reluctantly agreed to getting her out of there. We aren't set up to introduce a new bird to an existing flock which can be a very tricky process even when you are set up for it and follow the right steps.  I did some quick reading on the subject and discovered that the only thing that we had going for us is that she is exactly the same age as our chickens.  Unfortunately chickens have no recollection of their youth, let alone last week.  An existing flock has a well established pecking order and routine and adding even one stranger can upset this order and the pecking order has to be re-established.  They accomplish this by pecking and fighting.  NOT a pleasant process.  By the time my research was done she had already been plunked down in the run with the cat carrier door open. We stayed with her and kept watch over her and monitored the situation.  It wasn't going all that well but as long as she was able to get up away from our chickens she was ok and they left her alone.

 In the process, I discovered that she has a nasty gash on the back of her neck/head.  It's likely that she was cut by one of the rooster's talons when they were scuffling and she was getting caught up in it.  We certainly aren't set up to care for an injured bird.  That only made this process more difficult.  When chickens see blood and injury on another bird they are attracted to it and will continue to go after it. And go after it they do.  They have been re-injuring her neck and drawing blood.  So after a hearty snack for everyone...

We sprayed her with Blue-Kote which is an anti bacterial, purple colored spray that stains and hides the injury from the other birds.  It also has a bad flavor that deters the other birds from pecking.

and this is what happens when you don't wear gloves....I have been doing a lot of dishes lately....

That still didn't seem to be doing the trick so last night I made a turtleneck for her out of an old sock and a couple pieces of elastic to cover up the injury.  The elastic goes around her wings to hold it in place.

Except this morning it doesn't look like it's staying in place very well.  It slips down below the injury.

Meanwhile she is avoiding the other chickens to some degree by staying up high or in a nesting box or in the cat carrier but there are times she can't avoid them. We do give her alone time in the coop to eat and drink and have been putting her inside the coop in her carrier at night.  The act of going inside at dark is foreign to her because she was kept inside all the time.  Henrietta has been seen perched next to her outside so maybe she is very slowly making friends.  She is a VERY friendly chicken who is not afraid to literally jump up into your arms or sit for a long time on your lap and she's laying us and egg every day, which is a good sign.

It's been 4 days and we are hoping for the best and hoping that she'll be accepted or at least ignored and allowed to peacefully co-exist but if it doesn't work out we can try re-homing her to a different friend with turkeys who might not bother her or cull her and move forward.  This is no fun for me.  I'm not completely emotionally attached to the chickens and didn't get all that upset when Buffy died a couple weeks ago but I don't like to see an animal suffering.  I also was very happy with my happy peaceful flock and don't want it to change.  I knew all of these things were possible of happening when we started raising chickens and did do some minor reading on different subjects and banked simple solutions in my mind but I'm a "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it" kind of thinker, so I'm have this knot in my stomach now and I'm sort of at a loss for solutions anymore.  One hour at a time I guess.  

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