Reintroducing a chicken to the flock is a tricky business. You have to ease them back in. Boss Chicken was separated from the flock back in the winter when I found her suffering from some sort of leg ailment, which may or may not be Marek’s. Many people might think it’s a bad idea, but we have decided to try to reintroduce her to the rest of the flock. Even with the stuffed animal in the crate with her, she’s obviously very lonely, and squawks all day. She should be outside getting fresh air and daylight, just like the others. We do let her out in the yard from time to time, but it’s not enough. We also don’t 100% know she has Marek’s, as there’s no test, and someone who has a lot of experience with Marek’s wrote to me and said that even if that’s what Boss Chicken’s problem is, there are varying degrees of the disease. On top of that, the other chickens have already been exposed to it, since she was living in the coop when she became ill. She doesn’t seem to be getting much better, but she certainly isn’t getting any worse, so we’re giving it a shot.
An issue that has come up is that Boss Chicken obviously used to be the boss, but in her absence, Suzy Creamcheese has taken over. Back in the days when everyone was healthy, the two of them used to have a real rivalry going. Nothing terrible, but there was a lot of chest bumping, and Boss Chicken was usually all up in Suzy Creamcheese’s business, reminding her of who was Boss Chicken. Suzy Creamcheese doesn’t rule with an iron beak the way Boss Chicken did, but it seems like she hasn’t forgotten her old rival.
Once the weather got nice, we’d take Boss Chicken out in the yard and then let the rest of them out in a different part of the yard, so everyone got some free time, but they weren’t in such close quarters as to cause strife. Of course, the minute I turned my back, in comes strife. Luckily my wife was there to break it up. Suzy Creamcheese had made a beeline for Boss Chicken, and feathers would have flown, had a human not intervened. We kept them outside, but I resolved that from then on I would remain ever vigilant. These chickens were not to be trusted, especially since Boss Chicken’s legs are wobbly and she can’t just run away. Not that she would, but she has a big disadvantage.
I decided the best way to get everyone reacquainted while providing safety would be to keep Boss Chicken in her crate and put the whole thing in the run. That way they could get up close and personal without there being a worry about them having at it. This was a great idea until I was reminded how easily chickens freak out about change. A crate in the run is a huge change, and it led to 4 chickens cowering and squawking with fear in a corner across from the intrusive item. Until they realized they were cowering at the bottom of the coop steps, and just went up into the safety of the coop instead. Henny Penny was trapped under the coop, unwilling to walk past the crate to escape, and paced frantically until I took the crate out, let her run into the coop, and then put the crate back. Then it took a little while, but they eventually got used to this new addition to the run and went back about the business of being chickens.
It seemed like a great setup until I let them all out into the yard again and noticed that Boss Chicken had blood all over her head and comb. My theory is that she stuck her head out of the crate and got a good peck in the head by Suzy Creamcheese, as there’s nothing in the crate that could cut her. Collin held the patient while I put Bag Balm on the wound, and we put her back down on the ground to make the most of what was left of chicken recess. She’s gotten very friendly since she’s been sequestered, and hung out with us, even sitting on Collin’s lap for a while. After a few minutes of lap time, she went back on the grass and promptly laid an egg, convincing me that Collin is some sort of fertility goddess. Collin is less convinced of this than I am, but I’ve never seen results like that before. I’m feeling a little fertile even just talking about it.
We’ve been putting her out in the run all week, and will see how it goes this weekend when they’re all in the yard. My hope is that everything will be smoothed over, but I haven’t found much information on reintroducing a former alpha hen back into a flock, especially a compromised alpha hen. I did find a lot about how if a chicken isn’t well, the other chickens may not accept her no matter what. If this turns out to be the case, I’ve been checking Craigslist for rabbit hutches and will move Boss Chicken into one of those so she can be outside near the others, but safe from avian mean girls. It’s less ideal, but she’s been inside all winter, and we’re not a house chicken family. As long as Collin goes out every day to radiate fertility and insure bountiful eggs, I think whatever arrangement we come up with will be a success.