Friday, January 20, 2012

Short Memories

Betty and Pearl in a staring contest.
Chickens have short memories. Pearl was clearly feeling back to normal, so I decided to put her back in with her feathered friends. But in the few days she'd been gone, I knew it was entirely likely that they'd completely forgotten about her. With chickens, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. There was a chance they'd treat her like a strange interloper from a distant flock and pick on her.

Poppy and Betty. Teenage BFFs. You rarely see one without the other.
I thought about waiting until it was dark, and all the hens were roosting and zoned out. Then I could sneak her back in and they'd all wake up in the morning and think she'd been there all along. As much as it makes me laugh to picture their morning reactions, this is really a chicken re-intro strategy. The sun comes up and suddenly there's an extra chicken, and I guess they all just figure they never noticed that one extra one before.

But it was a beautiful day, and I hated for her to miss it. So I thought I'd see what happened if I just dropped her in with the flock.

I put her down and she was clearly happy to be out of that bathtub. Her eyes brightened, her tail lifted to a perky angle, and her cheek feathers puffed out. She set to work looking for scratch right away. But then Betty, one of the big Australorps--probably twice her size--noticed her. She eyed her suspiciously, then swaggered up to her, and stood up straight and tall and arched her neck over Pearl. Betty thought maybe this was her chance to be top chicken over someone.

Pearl has always been nice to the Australorps, who (until Pearl's vanishing and reintroduction) were the new kids in the coop. I wondered what she'd do. Pearl is less than half Betty's size. But she drew herself up as tall as she could, arched her neck, and glared at Betty. They were eye to eye. They stood there for a minute or so.

Betty reached down and, as if testing the waters, pecked Pearl on top of the head, but not too hard. Pearl assertively pecked Betty back and Betty squawked, turned tail, and ran.

That settled that. Pearl went back to scratching and dusting herself as if nothing had happened, having reclaimed her spot in the pecking order. The other chickens eyed her, but pretty much left her in peace.

I checked on her throughout the day, and she was running, roosting, and doing all the normal chicken stuff. No one was picking on her. And she was a long ways from the hen that couldn't walk on Saturday. It was a relief to see her back to normal. She's a very kind chicken, but that doesn't mean she lets anyone push her small self around.

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