Our bed&breakfast chicken, Tilda, went out first thing this morning to join her chums for the day. After about an hour, I couldn't see her anywhere: I went out into the garden and looked for her, calling her. Eventually she waddled round from wherever she'd been hiding. I picked her up to check she was oK, and then put her back down. I started to walk back and I caught Milly launching a really savage attack on her.
It wasn't the normal run-and-chase-you-away, or peck-on-the-head-because-I-can type thing. It was really vicious. Milly, a cream legbar hen with the most spectacular spurs, launched at Tilda, landed on her back, grabbed her by the comb, and forced her to fall over.
I spun round and actually smacked Milly off Tilda. Milly ran away and I controlled my rage and stopped myself chasing after her. Tilda was OK.
I came in, and told DH that if Milly had another stroke (she had heat stroke earlier this year and I nursed her back to health) I wouldn't bother trying to save her, she was such a spiteful b****.
DH and I had just been discussing this years cockerels, and how difficult the choice was going to be because they were all good natured gentle things this year... and it suddenly occurred to me that if Milly was a cockerel, I wouldn't put up with her behaviour.
I said this to DH, and then (to my own surprise, actually) found myself adding "Three strikes and she's out. She's just had strike 1".
I'm more shocked that I actually meant it. I've realised it is the right attitude for us. We have limited space in our garden. I fully understand about the pecking order and the way hens are.... but I've seen the pecking order work in a non-bullying and non-spiteful way and I know that Milly (and, to a lesser extent, Custard) are being the henny equivalent of spiteful rather than assertive.]
(Milly hasn't just been like this since Tilda has been under the weather, she's been like it for a looooong time...so it isn't a case ofhnature trying to deal with a weak flock member..)
I wouldn't tolerate that behaviour from a cockerel, and I will not tolerate it in my hens.
Let's hope Milly doesn't put me to the test.