Birds

Are You Chicken?

chicken eggs, brown eggs

Eggs from one of Gin’s happy hens

I remember as a small child, searching my Uncle Alfred’s hen house for eggs. I was afraid to reach under the hens, but I enjoyed gathering the eggs from the nest boxes without hens. It wasn’t until later that I saw the dark side of chickens. Many years later, I visited a flock that had a clear victim in it. Most of her tail and chest feathers had been plucked out by her flockmates. The owners took for granted that there would be a scapegoat in every flock. My heart reached out to the poor frazzled hen; some part of me could relate to her. I know how it feels to have no comfort and no safe place.

scapegoat, chickens

This poor chicken has been plucked on the chest and tail. This is NOT one of Gin’s chickens, but from a flock I visited several years ago in a different state. I’m not sure if the other chickens plucked the chest feathers or if the black girl plucked her own chest out of anxiety. Either way, it makes me sad.

Imagine my delight in meeting Gin’s flock, from the blog, Life with Chickens, (https://lifewithchickens.wordpress.com/).

Gin and Victoria CW

Gin holds Victoria, her favorite chicken and flock leader.

She had such healthy, happy birds that I was taken aback at first. There was no scapegoat in the mix, and no one had been severely plucked. Gin tells me that each species of chicken has its own pecking order, but I could see no outward evidence of corrections. I’m sure that there is an overall flock order too, but as I walked among her girls, I saw harmony. They were all healthy and well-feathered. There may be a pecking order, but there was no persecution of those lower in rank. Every girl had her health and her dignity.

red chicken

Louise, one of Gin’s happy hens, gives me the eye.

“This is it,” I thought, “this is chicken nirvana!” Everyone’s physical needs were met; there was no real need for competition. They had plenty of time outside to range about and look for bugs, seeds, and the other things they eat. Their need for freedom in the yard and safety in the coop was in balance. They each had a name and Gin’s affection. They didn’t live in fear of the stew pot or of getting the ax if they stopped producing eggs. Nonetheless, Gin says they are quite prolific in the egg department, and she donates dozens of their eggs to the local food bank each week. Wow! I’ll bet her eggs are popular there!

black hen, chicken

Gin’s black chicken wasn’t singled out at all. She’s an accepted part of the flock.

I recently watched a documentary on chickens at a rescue farm in the UK. They showed how smart and trainable chickens are, and the science in the pecking order. In a happy flock, the pecking isn’t bad at all. The flock producing the scapegoat chicken (pictured above) from a flock I won’t name must have been very stressed, deprived of sunlight and yard time, and treated as livestock rather than soulful friends. The flock was the same size as Gin’s, but the difference was huge.

red hen, chicken

This Colorado free-range chicken lives near me. Although not one of Gin’s chickens, she looks happy and healthy. Notice she’s outside, not in a coop.

I think that people are the same way. We thrive when seen as souls rather than political viewpoints or racial profiles. We all need a balance of freedom and safety. We all need to belong without feeling like we are persecuted by those “above” us. And yet, flock harmony eludes us on many levels. We have a lot to learn from chickens.

white chicken, hen

One of Gin’s happy girls in her nest box

 

Categories: Birds

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36 replies »

  1. We all need to be equally respected and loved and admired for our differences. I’m sad about the poor henpecked chicken but I am happy to hear about the other farm where the scapegoat and the chicken on the lowest rung of the pecking order wasn’t hurt. I’m the gal who sides with the underdog (underchicken?) so my heart hurts for the one who’s missing feathers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this! Our chickens are free range, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I love being outdoors, so why wouldn’t they? We’ve had our chickens for almost a year now and have so far (knock wood) not had any issues like that flock you saw. We did have some chicks that picked on each other when they were little and still caged, but we gave them more room and that seemed to solve the issue.
    Maybe we all as humans just need to give each other a little more space!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We adore chickens and had our own small contingent until recently. We couldn’t take any more loss (to stray dogs, foxes and birds of prey) but enjoyed them so much. The pecking order can be brutal but usually settles down once it’s established. Love your photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I can imagine how hard it would be to have pets that were sought after as prey. I’ve heard this from others too. We live in an area with lots of hawks and eagles, which is a common predator for backyard chickens along with area coyotes. Chickens can lead a difficult life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It made me sad to think of one of the chickens being picked on by the others.

    My biped says that when she was a little girl her great-grandmother would send her to collect eggs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also was sad to see the picked-on chicken. The farm family said it was just the natural order and all chickens do that. So I was quite impressed that Gin’s chickens weren’t like that at all. I’m afraid to imagine the inside of “factory farms.”

      Like

  5. It is nice to hear of a happy flock. Good to know some understand what their needs are to avoid this from happening. It reminds me of my home with 12 cats, I am still trying to get Sammy to stop bullying Brody.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Karel: loved the chicken pictures. If I were still oil painting, I would paint those pictures. They are great. I always wanted to raise chickens when I was growing up but my father wouldn’t go for that idea. Between the snakes and the coyotes he said we wouldn’t be able to keep them. I had a hard time accepting that because someone that lived in that place before us had built a chicken coop! When your dad was a boy he had a pet chicken named Picky. I am glad you remember Uncle Alfred’s farm.

    The way people treat animals says a considerable amount about their character. If they aren’t good to animals, they aren’t likely to be good to people either.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In New Zealand we call them chooks which is a great word! We always had chooks on our farm I grew up on. I used to love the way the rooster would call his girls when he found some delicious morsel. He really took care of them. Our chooks were free range and used to have a dust bath on the road, which was an unsealed, metal road. 2 or 3 cars would go past every day so no chook died in a car smash.

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  8. It’s sad to see the chicks so stressed out, almost heartbreaking, but good to see that there are still good people who take care of their animals, so that they are feeling free and happy. It shows! Pawkisses for a Happy Chick…Day I mean 😀 ❤

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  9. On the farm in PA there was one chicken who would always escape and lay her eggs in random places and we’d find them by accident days later haha I love chickens! We had a camp chicken in Kenya (Matilda) who was an important ally…she ate all the parasites. However, she also liked to poop all over the drying rack. They’re mischevious!

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  10. Aww… Thank You! That makes me feel good. We as chicken Mom’s feel like we never do enough to keep the hens happy and healthy. We don’t see from another’s perspective. Fresh eyes on the subject is an encouragement. I guess, I’ll be easier on myself… 🙂 Those girls are so much a part of my day and life I just want to give them the best I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Gin! Your flock was so happy and healthy! There is no problem, there. You’re a great chicken mom. There are lots of human and chicken moms that can take a note, here. You have a beautiful and happy flock; thank you for sharing it with me!

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