I hope this is the happy ending of Red’s story of woe. This week, I began a campaign to reintegrate her back into the flock. First, I gave her a couple sessions of free-ranging alongside the chicken run to see how the others would react. She was very cautious, and her sisters were curious about her. They clustered around her, on the other side of the fence, and it reminded me of a marauding gang threatening a stranger not to come too close to their territory.
After she got more comfortable with that experience, I put her into the garden for a couple hours with the other chicken of her same breed. (Birds of a feather do really seem to like each other the best.) That went well, so the next time I put her in for a whole afternoon with one of the large but less aggressive hens. They seemed to get along well after a little acclimation period. They were scratching out and gobbling worms side by side by the end of the day.
Today, I took a gamble and put her into the garden with one of the bullies, a Gold Laced Wyandotte. Red kept a few paces away as Goldy came close but it looked okay. I left them alone for an hour and when I returned … Red was gone! She has never shown any interest in flying up and over the six foot garden fence. Goldy was perched atop a freshly turned mound of soil, seeming quite triumpant.
I had let the other chickens out to free range on their own, so I walked around the barn, hoping not to find Red quivering in a corner with bloody feathers. There she was, perched on a straw bale inside the chicken run, surrounded by the rest of the flock! She’d walked right in and rejoined on her own volition.
Well, I guess that ends the story. She made her own decision about when it was time, so I have locked her back in with the others and dismantled her pen in the barn. I noticed that she still runs away and hides in the coop, but perhaps she will gradually begin to hold her own against the higher hens in the pecking order. We will see. I don’t think I’ll pull her out again, she’ll just have to go it alone now that she has her feathers back.