Thursday, 24 September 2015

Rooting for the Underdog

I guess it's that traditionally British trait, rooting for the underdog, but I am always surprised at how the process of introducing new chickens affects me.  I am always changing my mind about who I am rooting for, and it's usually whichever poppet is getting bullied.

Poppy, our fox attack survivor,  has been regularly lunging at the newbies through the netting.  I completely understand this.  She was bottom hen before,  survived the awfulness of Milly's constant bullying (which went way beyond henpecking, and  was so bad we had to cull Milly in the end), and doesn't want to be bottom chook again.

Gloria, the girl we bought back from the allotment to keep the orphaned Poppy company, is top hen. She harassed Poppy mercilessly to establishing her position,. Gloria  has been broody for some time now. She and Poppy are both excellent broodies, they stick to the nestbox unrelentingly, and seem to disengage their brain.

The newbies' Cube, run, and netted area  has been alongside Poppy and Gloria's area for many weeks now.Whenever Poppy encounters them at the communal bit of netting, she lunges at them and they run away.  Normal behaviour, nothing to worry about.  I hoped that she would just get on with it.

Lately, the two flightiest newbies have been flying into Poppy's area,  or following Poppy by flying into the garden.   The third newbie, a maran,  is too heavy to fly over the netting, so she runs up and down. I feel a bit sorry for her,  and I don't really want the other two to form a strong bond which excludes her.

When Poppy encounters them, she lunges at them. I feel a bit sorry for them.  They are young, and small, and naive.   Poppy doesn't persecute them though, she just chases them until they go away.

The newbies are 18 weeks old now. and a t some point we'll have to deal with introductions and integration. For the last couple of days, if they flighty newbies have followed Poppy by flying over the netting into the main garden, I've simply opened the entrance to their areas so that Fleur, the maran, can join them.  This way, they can all free range in the same area.

Today I spotted that the newbies had taken over the covered run.  They were scratching around in front of Gloria's nest box.  Oblivious to the fact that Gloria was there, even.   Poppy was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, I was very concerned - and sad -  that Poppy might end up at the bottom of the pecking order again.  I felt guilty for bringing in 3 interlopers who might push her out again.

I had a moment of clarity.

What I wanted was Poppy to still be second in command.   I wanted her to assert herself enough to establish this,  but not so much that the others were traumatised (as Milly had done).

I'm on Team Poppy now.


No comments:

Post a Comment