Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Peacemaker Chicken

In our flock of eight beautiful chickens, all named, and all loved for their unique personalities, we have a mille fleur, a truly beautiful chicken whose mottled colors, diminutive size, and human friendly nature made her a favorite with us right away. We have named her “mini me” for her size. She loves to be talked to and will stay in your presence as if eager to hold up her end of the conversation. She loves to be picked up and have her neck and comb stroked, and she will sit on your lap and read a book with you if you just ask her.

But Mini also has another side to her nature. Though the smallest chicken in the flock by far, she is also the most aggressive with the other birds. She will peck them, pull their feathers, and chase them around the yard and do this repeatedly to another chicken she has picked out for this treatment. It can get so bad that the other chickens will pile up in one corner of the coop, making one large protective mass of chicken to protect themselves from Mini.

This behavior is particularly notable when Mini is “broody” as her breed tends to be. During her broody times, Mini will sit in a nesting box on any eggs, her own or those of other chickens, that may have accumulated there. She will not leave the nesting box or the coop, making it difficult for other chickens who may want to use that nesting box. The whole time she makes her “broody” noises that warn the others away.

There is one chicken that Mini never pecks. She never pulls her feathers or chases her around the yard. This is Greybeard, one of the largest of the hens and certainly the calmest. Greybeard comes over to speak with me when I enter the chicken coop. She keeps up a steady stream of calming noises that make me glad to share a chicken coop with her. Greybeard is not a flirt, but she does offer from time to time, by her position and her demeanor, that if I want to rub her back, then that’s quite all right with her. It is very easy to be around Greybeard.

Greybeard’s unique solution to Mini’s broody ways is to stay close to her in such a unique way that it was startling when I first saw it. The nesting boxes are large enough to accommodate one egg laying chicken comfortably but with little room to spare. Greybeard not only approaches Mini when she is broody in a nesting box, she actually enters the box with her and sits with her, crowding her big chicken body in there almost on top of Mini. Mini puts up no fuss, does not object in any way, stops making broody noises, and remains calm. It is Tao-tally amazing.

I am happy to report that Mini eventually leaves off her broody periods, allowing the chicken coop to return to normal. Meanwhile we are so fortunate to have Greybeard the Buddha Bird among us.