Saturday, May 26, 2007

Trouble int' coop

Poultry......Hmm, I didn't think keeping a few hens was going to be quite as complicated as this. After all, no third world documentary is complete without a flock of fulfilled fowl pecking contentedly in the most primitive conditions, living cheek by jowl with its hosts and seemingly as happy as the proverbial pig in s**t which also shares the lodging. Healthy too. Chez nous, they are accommodated in state-of-the-art housing with nest boxes of soft meadow hay. They're fed and watered regularly and thanked for every egg laid - their every need is catered for in fact.

My expectation is that they'll happily cluck and scratch the day away, laying the prescribed egg every 26 hours (or whatever) and generally be part of the picture of the perfect rural idyll.

But all is not well in paradise. In the Henhouse on Wheels - the 3 Mrs Browns have fallen victim to the Evil Mrs Black who rules with a beak of steel. The Eyechild's descrition of this despot is spot on:
...'Top Dog' of this cell block when the lights go out is the slightly sinister Mrs Black, a terrifying matronly bird with dark plumage, who metes out her own violent form of authority as savagely as the bosun of a 17th century naval frigate might, if they were a hen.

As the other hens sport ever more painful looking beak marks and diminish in stature, the maniacal Mrs Black prospers inversely, and walks with an ever more pronounced swagger. In ten years she'll probably be ripping up flagstones and holding tanks at bay in Parliament Square. You watch and see.'

Her regime is brutal and bloody and her more easily led 'sisters' follow suit in pecking the weakest of their number. Their victim, who these days looks not unlike a vulture, has also survived the brown dog's mouth. She's a real survivor and deserves to live. She's a good layer too.

Another house was bought and run constructed. The victim - sometimes known as 'the scraggy hen' - had a new home, a place of safety and respite. It was into this safe haven that I introduced the trio of Silver Laced Wyandot bantams bought at Builth Wells last weekend.

The three little birds had little option but to make it their home and all seems to have been reasonably harmonious. The cockerel - all mouth and trousers - strutted his stuff and asserted his authority. However this afternoon he was decidedly off-colour; hunched with feathers staring. His right eye was closed and very swollen. On closer inspection the eye has gone - I was looking at an empty socket. I think he's probably has a peck from the brown scraggy hen.

Gruesome and gory don't bother me too much but I am quite affected by the fact that I don't know what to do next. This isn't a 'Kiss it Better' situation. I bathed him with cool boiled water and put him back to see what tomorrow brings.

Please don't anyone say 'It's only a hen.'


mutterings and meanderings said...

I'm sure that if there is no infection, he will be OK. There is an old lady horse up here that only has one eye and she manages fine.

Bless him.

Mopsa said...

Chickens should have been bit part players in Lord of the Flies. Over years of poultry owning we have sometimes had to dispatch (and eat) a bully that regularly draws the blood of others. Never have that problem with geese or ducks though - they just bonk the opposition to death. What a way to go.

mountainear said...

M&M - You're right - it's the infection we've got to keep at bay. He's quite chirpy, eating and drinking - all positive signs.

Mopsa - I shall go and talk sternly to the Evil Mrs Black and take a knife and fork with me as a dire warning of what the future has in store....

PS I have called him One Eyed Riley. I vaguely remember a bawdy song of the same name.

annakarenin said...

For some reason I didn't find this one last time I visited only the other. I am planning on getting a couple oif chickens but keep hearing horror stories about how nasty they are to each other and am getting rather worried . I want a Cream legbar or an Aracauna for blue eggs and a white Sussex for plenty of eggs and I like the look of them. I have put them on my birthday list but I do hope they get on?