Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Pecking Order

Naturally you have all heard of the pecking order. We seem to have the pecking order – more pecking than order- made manifest in the henhouse these days.
You surely recall Bump? Bump was one of the first to hatch from our initial batch of 25 beautiful eggs from Annie Farrell. The Hoffman boys kept them in an incubator behind the couch in their octagonal room in which they watch Notre Dame football games on a big screen TV. Fifteen eggs hatched. An astounding 10 of them turned out to be roosters and hence made their way to Yonkers, leaving us with 5 hens, of which Bump is clearly the most remarkable.
Even before we knew Bump was a she, we knew she was special. She has a topknot, a pompadour, a frizzy Mohawk, a vertical hairdo, a beautiful black crest. She is a Crevecoeur, a breed developed by the French (mais oui) from Polish stock (the same poignant Polish sensibility that sent their cavalry to face the German Panzer Division in WWI). And like the cavalry, Crevecoeurs are now an endangered breed.

A couple of days ago CSB noticed a raw patch on Bump’s back, just in front of that spot where her tail makes its elegant swerve to the vertical. Clearly Bump was being picked on and pecked at.
We went to our poultry bible, Raising Chickens for Dummies, and found this disheartening explanation:
Chickens are conscious of colors and patterns, and they often pick on a bird that has different coloring, color patterns of feathering than the majority breed…Chickens with topknots are frequently picked on by other types of chickens.”
In other words, chickens can be bullies.
I consulted Butler’s to see if anything in the life of Saint Brigid, the patron saint of chicken farmers, could prove helpful in this matter. No. She is also the patron of milkmaids, bastards, poets and printing presses, and seems to have lavished all her patronly wisdom on them.
Now we are considering slathering Bump’s exposed posterior with honey, which is antibacterial and has great healing qualities. CSB is worried that the other hens will redouble their bullying when they discover how sweet the honey is.
I am considering arnica.

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