Wednesday, 2 April 2014

For her own good

Tilda has been quite perky (for a hen on her last legs) lately. She's increased her consumption of peckablocks, which is a good sign.  She's spending her days outside now, although that's done byus physically picking her up and putting her outside.  I suspect that if we left it up to her, even with the door open,  she'd stay inside.

Once she's out she seems reasonably content. As much as one can really tell with a chook. She waddles over to the double row of netting, as close to the other chooks as she can, and then sits there.  She moves along the netting as the day goes on, getting into the sun or the shade as she prefers.

She has asked to go in with the others, but each time I've tried it, it hasn't ended well.  I have no idea whether her hatchmates still want to attack her - they don't get the chance.  As soon as Tilda gets anywhere near the run, Poppy rushes over to keep her away.     Poppy goes to great lengths to try and reach Tilda, to give her a resounding peck on the head.  If it was just one peck, well, that would be hen pecking. But this is done with a passion.

It's not spite,  which was the reason Milly (deceased) used to attack newbies. Or oldies that she didn't like anymore.   Milly had never been subjected to anything other than mild hen pecking, and I've no idea how or why she developed such a nasty and spiteful personality.  I had to cull her in the end,  and I wish that I had done it sooner.

I can understand what might be Poppy's motivation.  Last year,  when Tilda reintegrated herself for the summer, she made sure she hen pecked Poppy and Lotti.  Tilda had been bottom hen all her life, she had been bottom of 5 and she did not want to be bottom of 7.    Poppy and Lotti were youngsters who didn't know how to retaliate.

Poppy, presumably, thinks that Tilda wants to rejoin the flock,  and now Poppy wants to make sure she doesn't lose her place in the flock. She's making quite sure that Tilda knows her place.

Unfotunately, I can't be sure that Poppy will know when to stop.  She's drawn blood before,  but that was on the comb - and combs always bleed profusely.     I've tried putting Tilda in the no-hens-pand between the two rows of netting,  but she's then within reach of Poppy's beak,  and Poppy has a go.  Last week's cut comb was caused by that.

So we're currently not putting Tilda in with the others.   

As the weather warms up, and the kitchen might become to warm for her,  I think the next step will be to put Tilda on her own, in the Go. The Go could  run alongside the netting, meaning that Tilda gets the same contact as she does now, but she can also live outside.    I was thinking I could leave the side door open (during the day when we are in) so she could also come out of the Go and come to the house if she preferred.  And at the beginning, she could choose whether to sleep in the Go or sleep in the kitchen.

Yes, I guess that's the next step.

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