Monday, 17 June 2013

Should have gone to Specsavers!

Posted by Rosie

Anyone who has ever kept chickens will know that hens are not always the nicest of creatures.  If you have watched them fight over a dead mouse or the not so proverbial early worm you'll know what I mean.  And it is not without good reason that we talk about The Pecking Order and being Hen Pecked because hens will peck at each other.  They do this as a means of working out and maintaining a distinct order in the flock where one hen will be at the top working their way down to some poor minion at the bottom.  Usually the odd warning peck is enough to keep order but sometimes birds get an abnormal taste for feathers and pecking to maintain order becomes excessive pecking and feather eating resulting in bare bottoms and/or backs within many other birds the flock.

And that is what has happened in our flock :(  Even the Eric our cockerel has been (hen) pecked and my poor Buff Orpington girls have no lovely tail feathers at all.  However after much secretive watching I managed to work out that there was just one hen doing all the damage, a bird I bought last year.

I removed her from the flock a couple of weeks ago and placed her in what I thought was a hen-proof run away from the main flock.  Turns out it wasn't hen-proof so she was then confined to an empty rabbit cage I use for sick birds.  My hen-pecking chicken was banged up in the slammer and named Mrs Slammer!

A bit of research however seemed to indicate that it is very difficult to get birds to stop the feather pecking habit (as I am sure anyone who has ever chewed their nails will sympathise with!).  There's a good chance that if the temptation of some bare bottoms/backs is still there, as it is with my birds, the pecker will continue pecking.  Now I was in a quandary as to what to do with her - she's a good layer and a young bird so the pot seemed rather a waste.  Then I remembered that a friend had sent me some "Hen Spectacles" designed to stop pecking when I had had a similar but smaller problem last year (solved that time by isolating the 2 offending birds in the pen Mrs Slammer kept escaping from!).  

Yup - spectacles - you did read that right!  

Mrs Slammer - should have gone to Specsavers!
They are basically blinkers that clip onto the bird's beak so she can only see down and sideways not straight in front and in doing so she is apparently not able to see the bottoms and backs she previously pecked at so viscously.

So now Mrs Slammer is back in the flock complete with her new designer spectacles and I am keeping a keen eye on her to check she behaves herself.  So far I can report no sounds of squawking as feathers are pecked out and Eric, at least, seems to be sporting a few fluffy bum feathers!!   As for Mrs Slammer - I wonder if she's thinking that she should have gone to Specsavers!

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