This photo is not one of my chickens, but “Red” is experiencing a similar fate right now. She did fine all year while her flock-mates suffered from bare backs, short tails, and bony wings. She was one of the meanest in the yard, pecking and chasing the others away from the morsels of cracked corn and generally making their lives hell.
Well, now the tables have turned. Red began rapidly dropping feathers around her back, neck, and wings. Although the spines of new feathers sprouting are making her look like a pincushion, to her dismay, her status has abruptly dropped to the bottom of the pecking order.
For the last couple of days I’ve found her forlornly huddled in a nesting box, unwilling to come out even when I had to reach in to get the lone egg of the day. She pecked at my hand in fury but I shooed her away anyway and after I got the egg she hopped right back into her little cave.
Today, Red had left the coop. As I entered the barn to toss the chickens some corn snacks I heard a frantic squawking and fluttering of feathers outside the window. I’ll have to say I have mixed feelings about the scene I found. Three or four hens had descended on Red and had cornered her in the run. I shouted and scattered them and Red hopped up on a straw bale to safety. Sometimes when a fight occurs, Cooper the rooster jumps in to break it up, but not this time.
So, is this justice? Is Red going to learn a little compassion for her sisters after being on the other end of the pecking beaks? I’d like to imagine so, but let’s face it it’s a rough world out in the chicken yard. I will have to keep an eye out and make sure she doesn’t get seriously injured because I’ve heard a disabled chicken can be killed by the flock, but I am struggling a bit with feeling sympathy for such a bully.