Fowl Play: A Cautionary Real Life Tale

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by karincs, Jan 22, 2018.

  1. karincs

    karincs Chirping

    Apr 3, 2014
    Flourtown, PA
    Once upon a time there was a cheery backyard coop housing 3 happy hens, Bertha, Mildred, and Gertrude. Bertha, a Red Star, was head hen, and a fair and kindly head hen she was. Mildred, an Australope, was feisty and loud, but knew her place. Gertrude, an Easter Egger, was meek and mild, sweetly accepting her lowly place in the pecking order.

    Unfortunately Bertha was plagued with reproductive issues and after several years succumbed to her issues; her passing was sad but also seen as a relief to her intermittent difficulties. Upon Bertha’s passing Mildred, the Australope, took her feistiness to a new level. Her dominance increased to the point that she actually began crowing on a daily basis, while continuing to be a champion layer. She was not the kindest hen and Gertrude knew to stay out of her way as much as possible. In the meantime 4 new chicks had joined the family but were still isolated in their nursery coop where they could see the “big girls” but were safe from contact.

    In the summer Gertrude became broody. She spent long hours in her the nest box, but I could coax her out to free range in the yard for a bit of time each day, and to eat and drink her fill. Around that time my 91 year old father passed away, necessitating my husband and I to be out of time for several weeks. My neighbor, also long time chicken owners, took care of my girls, but due to her work schedule she was not able to let them out to free range in the yard as I could. About 10 days into our time away my neighbor notified me that she found Gertrude deceased in the nest box. She also said she had never seen a hen as mean as Mildred. Sadly, what we finally pieced together was that Gertrude was probably never broody. In fact she was using the nest box as a hiding place to get away from Mildred, and Mildred was probably tormenting her whenever she tried to get to food and water, and basically was starved to death by Mildred’s meanness.

    Needless to say, my guilt was enormous. I had assumed broodiness and missed the abuse, and in my absence had not kept my hen safe. I had 4 new hens, but with Mildred the Murderer, I knew they would be at peril as well if I tried to have them share the coop with her.

    Fortunately I was able to re-home Mildred very quickly. I warned the new owner that she was very dominant and would do best in a large flock with an established pecking order. Interestingly, according to the new owner, in her new flock of about 20 hens she didn’t have a fight she didn’t win, and all she had to do was give the “stink eye” and every hen got out of her way. She has settled in as the head hen, and the new owner is still pleased to have her.

    As for my new hens, they are lovely and friendly and seem to be getting along well with each other and their place in the pecking order. I still feel sadness and guilt over my sweet Gertrude’s demise but perhaps by sharing her story others might learn from it as I did. In retrospect, Mildred was mean from day 1 when as a newly hatched chick she was loud and would peck at the other chicks. I know now that is not a trait to embrace. Also, I know now to not assume broodiness, but really pay attention to what is going on in the coop. Perhaps if I had learned that lesson sooner, Gertrude would be head hen for the new girls…
  2. moniquem

    moniquem Songster

    Feb 3, 2013
  3. Care for chicks

    Care for chicks Chirping

    Dec 7, 2017
    I am sorry for your loss:hitvery touching story, I appreciate the lesson you shared:thumbsup thank you:goodpost:
    Clarity1210 likes this.
  4. ChickNanny13

    ChickNanny13 Crossing the Road

    Jun 23, 2013
    The Big Island/Hawaii
    Thank you for sharing, sorry for your losses.
  5. peckpeckpeck

    peckpeckpeck Songster

    Aug 3, 2017
    Aloha OR
    Thank you for sharing.
    I'm so sorry about Gertrude! I would've probably assumed the same thing, that she was broody.
    Now I can be aware & look out for my EE who is also being bullied right now.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Well written!
  7. karincs

    karincs Chirping

    Apr 3, 2014
    Flourtown, PA
    thank you all for your kind remarks. Some lessons are harder learned than others, but this one, Gertrude's legacy, will not be forgotten.
    Wishing you all happy hens!
    Care for chicks likes this.
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Thank you for sharing your story. It's very worthwhile for all of us.
  9. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    Thanks for sharing your story. I've had to cull some bully hens to maintain harmony in the flock. It's not easy, but it's necessary.

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