Friday, April 30, 2010

You're Not the Boss of Me....

Continuing on the theme of chicken-related phrases in common use, I feel compelled to discuss "pecking order' as defined in Merriam-Webster as:

: the basic pattern of social organization within a flock of poultry in which each bird pecks another lower in the scale without fear of retaliation and submits to pecking by one of higher rank; broadly : a dominance hierarchy in a group of social animals
: a social hierarchy

No matter how many hens I have at any one time, there is always a pecking order. Depending on the dominant...we'll call her the peckerhead....the severity will vary but there is always a 'squawk" to alert you to the fact that someone is at the bottom of the pecking order. I believe Ginger to be the lead pecker in my flock and she's a mean one (see previous post). As a result, I've done more doctoring of hen butts with this flock than ever in my years of hen-keeping. Well, a while back I DID have to deal with a little Polish hen with a prolapsed oviduct ....I won't gross you out but it involved the chicken equivalent of a uterus on the outside of the chicken having to be returned to it's proper location with a gloved hand, Vaseline and a horribly unhappy husband for a helper.

This flock has been dominated by Ginger from pretty much the start so I've been dealing with wounds. Chickens will commonly peck at anything.....rivets on jeans and my pretty painted toenails are generally enticing. Should a peer develop a wound of any sort, the others will peck at it - and the bigger the wound becomes, the more enticing it seems to be. I've read that they are attracted to red and others have told me it's the 'smell of blood'. Who knows what the the girls are thinking but they just peck at stuff. I've collected medications and treatments to try and help. Blu-Kote is a spray that has an antibiotic in it as well as drying agents but I suspect it's best feature is it's color.....It's a punky blue-violet color that is lovely when applied to a bare chicken butt. The blue seems to disguise any injury so allows the wound to dry and heal without further distress. I also have Rooster Booster that helps stop the 'cannibalizing" behavior by turning skin (including my hands) that dark purple but also has peppermint and aloe which must be soothing. Poor Mavis has had her neck and behind plum plucked clean and has become used to being hung upside down and smeared with purple goo so much that I don't think she minds. Hanging a chicken by the feet, by the way, relaxes them - makes `em "go nonny". If you've seen pictures of villagers carrying birds that way, it's just a way of calming them.

This is my little tribute to Ruby, who has been pecked at for the last time. For the last week, I've been spraying her with Blu-Kote but am pretty sure her wound actually was the exterior part of an interior problem. It was difficult to diagnose since it was quite bloody at times and hard to keep her sequestered. She seemed to actually be enjoying the attention since she would hide behind me when I was in the pen and actually leaned on me and dozed once. After days of treatment however, sadly Ruby has "gone on holiday" (a Chicken Run reference if you're not familiar). She has "bought the farm" and "gone to live on a ranch".... poor girl climbed into the nesting box and packed it in. Hopefully, I can keep Ginger under control so she doesn't do that to others in my flock. I really hate to lose my little feathered friends.

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