A ban­tam in Michelle’s flock faces a hard time when her mother dies

Your Chickens - - Contents -

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.

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