A bantam in Michelle’s flock faces a hard time when her mother dies
with Michelle Dunn
The Pecking Order is an important and unavoidable part of chicken social dynamics. It ensures that everyone knows their place and prevents squabbling that could result in injuries to weaker birds. In our free-range flock, with plenty of space to roam and lots to occupy it, there is a clear pecking order but no bullying and no injuries.
Occasionally, however, a particular set of circumstances arises that means one individual has a hard time making its place in the flock. This is what has happened to Beaky.
Beaky was the only chick hatched from a late clutch by one of our bantams. The bantam in question was typical of her breed in that she was an excellent, if somewhat militant mother, who aggressively chased everyone away from the food until Beaky had eaten her fill. In the normal course of things, Beaky would have been abandoned when she was old enough to hold her own in the flock. Unfortunately, Beaky’s mother died before this could happen, and Beaky was left alone and undefended at only 12 weeks old.
This is a hard time to find yourself alone, particularly if you do not have any clutch mates to be your companions. Beaky was only part-grown, and much smaller than the other birds in the flock. In addition, all the birds that had been chased off by Beaky’s mum had not forgotten this treatment, and they were in no mood to extend the claw of friendship to Beaky.
At first, she had a very hard time of it. She was driven away from the morning grain ration until every other bird had eaten its fill, and left with whatever she could find afterwards. Beaky tried to join the flock but the other birds either ignored her or pecked her if she got too close. Happily, the flock is a good-natured, happy band of birds and she was never pecked hard enough to injure her. After a few weeks she had won enough ground to wander freely with the flock, and now she is tolerated, if not entirely accepted. This state of affairs will continue until new birds are introduced to the flock, or she becomes sexually mature and the cockerel starts to take an interest in her. Cockerels have no patience with inter-hen cliques, and will quickly discipline anyone who picks on one of their hens.
Beaky has it made.
ABOVE: Beaky had to wait until everyone had finished before she could eat RIGHT: Now, Beaky has it made.