Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Girl fight

I have no idea how or why but tonight when I checked on the ladies, Teensy had Butterscotch head-down in the corner of one of the broody-hen boxes & was ripping feathers out of her neck. I made enough racket & Butterscotch got away.

Butterscotch is one of the ameraucana hens, big but not biggest, smart but not smartest. A nice middle-of-the-road bird that I keep ordering because A cannot get over the blue-green eggs. They are fine birds for a backyard henhouse: non-setting, placid, with plenty of variety even in a small flock of five or six.

Teensy is a different bird of a different place. She was one of the many sumatras ordered by one of our chicken-syndicate partners. She & another sumatra were so small they could easily get out of the small gauge chicken wire that covers my peep-house. Teensy spent part of her first days inside my cleavage until she was big enough to stay in the peephouse with the others. Yes, I really like chickens. When the time came for the sumatras to go, I asked to keep her. & until this episode she was a fine bird.

Sumatras do not suit my flock, technique or territory. They are small enough to be vulnerable to hawks (a big problem here), independent enough to want to find their own perches (outside of the protected henhouse). Their eggs are also small, & not even two of them make a standard size. I usually use hers to supplement the cockatiel food. When I put them in standard cartons, they rattle around & get wedged & then crushed on the other eggs. Sumatra feathers are lovely up close, deep glossy black & almost iridescent, but to most people they look like petite & yet pudgy crows.

Butterscotch outweighs Teensy 2:1, easy. & yet, as soon as my racket faded, Teensy hopped off the night perches & back on Butterscotch again. Butterscotch tried to get away & then just sqawked while Teensy tore into her.

This is not the first case of poultry aggression I have heard of: I read that turkeys might peck each other to death if left to it. No apparent provocation between birds that had hatched in the same incubator & been together ever since. I have seen what my own hens have done to the random jay that tried to steal from their feeder (it was not pretty).

If Teensy & Butterscotch had been doing this for more than 1/2 a day (I last checked them after lunch), I would certainly have seen more damage. Maybe Butterscotch did something provocative...I wonder what poultry trash-talk would sound like: your mother is schmaltz?

In the end I put Butterscotch in the larger broody-hen box, a former rabbit hutch with extra small gauge screen to keep out snakes. It is well filled with hay so she will be warm & I grabbed either Vermeer or Mondrian, one of the lakenvelders anyhow (it was dusk & they can be hard to tell apart in full sun), so she will not be alone. In the morning, they can push the door open easily & hop back into the main henhouse, but there is no way for a bird on the outside to get in at her.

Hopefully by morning their little feathered brains will have forgotten all about this.

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