Boss Chicken’s New Digs
When I left off last week, we were going to try to get Boss Chicken back in the good graces of the rest of the flock. We had to separate her in the winter due to a mystery illness that affected the use of her legs. The vet thought it might be Marek’s, but since the flock had already been exposed and Boss Chicken was lonely after months of quarantine, we recently started putting her crate into the run to reacquaint everyone. Things were fine, as long as we left her in the crate. This wasn’t ideal though, since the crate took up space, and the other chickens had started to roost on it, which meant they were pooping down on Boss Chicken. I don’t allow this sort of hazing, so I knew something had to change. On Saturday, we let everyone out in the yard to see if familiarity bred contempt, or acceptance. For a while, they all ignored each other. Boss Chicken did her thing, and the others did their respective things. The Mandrell Sisters, our Buff Orpingtons that I can’t tell apart, seemed to be the most accepting. They would wander around in Boss Chicken’s vicinity without batting an eyelash, if chickens have those. Suzy Creamcheese, who is the new alpha chicken, and therefore the one I was worried about, seemed fine with pretending Boss Chicken wasn’t around. This was an improvement, I suppose. Ignorance is preferable to belligerence, especially if you’re on the receiving end of that belligerence.
But just when it was looking up, everything went downhill. Without warning, Suzy Creamcheese was at it again, pecking away at Boss Chicken’s comb. We broke it up, applied Bag Balm to the injuries, and decided it was time to get a rabbit hutch for Boss Chicken. She seemed fine, and spent some time in Collin’s lap, though no eggs were produced during her time there. I assume this is because she too was upset about not being let back into the chicken clique. She did take her lumps without complaint, though, really making it seem like some sort of pledging ritual. Or, perhaps more accurately, like she was unable to defend herself.
Sunday morning we found a hutch for sale a couple of towns over that even offered free delivery. We made an appointment to go see it, and on the way over I was plotting ways to get the price down by substituting eggs for money. So when we arrived and saw the seller’s gigantic chicken coop, I felt as if I was the one who had been pecked in the head. We got talking about his chickens, and he suffered from Too Many Chickens! of his own. They had three left of their original batch, and had just gotten 8 chicks. “Here we are getting three eggs a day, which is perfect,” he said, “and now look how many we’ll be getting when the chicks grow up. What did we do?”
We liked the hutch and said we’d take it. Collin then informed the seller that we actually were going to use it for a chicken instead of a rabbit. He got a knowing look on his face. “We didn’t use it for rabbits, either,” he said. Our shameful chicken secrets were out in the open now. We explained what Boss Chicken’s story was, and he said this was very similar to one of his chickens, which had had a stroke. She lost the ability to walk, and would get picked on by the others, so they put her in the hutch, and she was happy. Until they let her out and a hawk got her, which can happen when you can’t run away. But it meant the hutch was available, and we took it.
This also gave us some insight into Boss Chicken’s condition. I had never even considered a stroke as a possibility, but it makes sense in terms of what may have happened to her. She doesn’t have the cloudy eyes that’s typical of Marek’s, and the other chickens have been unaffected. My thought is that maybe she was such a Type A chicken that a stroke was the result of that lifestyle. And the reason she has become so friendly now is because of either not wanting to return to her old ways, or brain damage. Not that nice people are brain damaged, but it was a big change for her.
We’ve got her set up in her new home facing the other chickens so she shouldn’t be as lonely as she was in the house. She still wants to be with someone, so Collin thought out loud about getting a bunny to keep her company in there. It is a rabbit hutch after all. Of course, that was the moment our son decided to actually pay attention to what we were saying, and he may be holding us to this idea. We’ll see. If nothing else, we’ll be starting a collection of animals who produce the best fertilizers you can get. We may run out of spots to fertilize, but I can just bring piles of poop into work to give away, right? Why is it o.k. with zucchini, but not this?