Chickens are fickle creatures, I would say stupid, but I will probably upset someone, so fickle it is. They are a pleasure to have pecking around the farm. They produce wonderful eggs. One can spend hours watching them busying about the place. But they do have a variety of annoying habits. They seen to die for no apparent reason. One day they look healthy/happy, next day stone dead. Some days they cluck and squawk for hour after hour, and given the chance they can decimate a flower bed within minutes.
Like all livestock there are problems and like all livestock it’s a continuous learning curve. This particular chicken has decided to peck out her own feathers. At first Head of Poultry thought the Boy – Forrest Gump – was being a tad rough. He is a bit of a blunderbus, not a gentleman like his predecessor Colonel Sherman T Potter. He was gentle, he rounded up his girls with military precision and care. He also seem to ask the girls permission before he had his wicked way. Forrest was quickly renamed from Nelson, mainly because he runs and runs all the time and is er… well… er… please don’t get upset… stupid. We really couldn’t continue to call him Nelson it would have been an insult to the great man. Then there is his Phil Mitchell style thuggery with the girls.
So Purple hen started with a small bald patch on her back, fairly common. Then it started to get bigger. Panic set in to both Head of Poultry and myself that we had cannibalism in the flock. Yes it can happen, but the likelihood with a small free range flock is rare. We also noticed none of the others were affected. It didn’t take long before Head of Poultry spotted her pecking out her own feathers. We have tried everything, you name it we’ve tried it or it’s been purchased but still she persisted. I was close to calling it a day, but she was laying, eating, drinking and pooing, admittedly looking a complete and utter mess but she seemed happy. It got so bad that it was decided we had to treat the raw skin, so purple spray – a legend in it’s own healingness – was applied.
Deja vu set in as two middle aged women with net set about trying to round up one hen. I like to think we are getting better at it. We have worked out it helps if you reduce the running area. So shutting her in the coop, in a farm shed or even better a stable really really helps. One major factor, make sure Forrest is nowhere in sight.
I am not sure who got more purple spray on themselves the hen or Head of Poultry. Even with much hand washing the bloody stuff doesn’t come off. I did comment that perhaps Head of Poultry should paint her nails to blend in with the colour of her skin, but her reply wasn’t polite. The stuff is clearly working and clearly doesn’t taste good as she now has a back full of healthy looking feather quills coming through… here’s hoping she stays that way!