21/2/2020 0 Comments
A pecking order isn’t always as simple as a chain of dominance in which each hen maintains its position over the hen immediately below it on the chain. It is based not only on feelings of rivalry between the hens but also on feelings of friendship and antipathy, which don’t always align completely neatly with their sense of relative power. Wilma is clearly feeling more comfortable these days now the little hens are larger and she is back in her familiar position as the most deferential of birds, following rather than leading a flock, and standing back when the food is put out. With the hens allowed out into the garden more she is more a part of the flock than she was, and this morning all four hens shared a bowl of mash without any fighting. Yet when I was hand-feeding Wilma some sunflower seeds and Mabel pushed in, Wilma still gave Mabel a cross peck. It didn’t bother Mabel who kept pushing in as cheerfully as before, but it was nice to see Wilma showing some assertiveness. After all the posturing between Maude and Mabel, Maude now seems to be deferring to Mabel, allowing Mabel first go at Wilma's sunflower seeds, although any pecking order is not too obvious when they are all hungry and there is plenty of food to go round. Mabel is the more adventurous eater than Maude too, always the most interested in trying new things and also the keenest on any kind of fresh fruit or vegetable. (Hens have quite individual tastes – my Rhode Island Reds were all passionate about corn, but out of this flock only Mabel shows any interest in corn, and even their preference in weeds is different. I keep looking for the leaves that Orly used to love and picking them for the hens who are not interested at all, preferring the buttercup leaves that Orly would never have wanted to eat. None of these hens particularly like rice, which Orly and Fly both adored. I wonder whether Orly and Fly would have set a better example, with Fly in particular a hen who could have offered some leadership. Most hens like anything to eat better if there is some competition for it.) In any case, Mabel seems to be allowed by the other hens to go for whatever she wants, while the main posturing now seems to be between Goldie and Maude. I saw Goldie and Maude stand staring eye to eye at each other, then, oddly, Goldie leaned over and pecked first at Maude’s beak, as if pecking off a bit of mash from it (which she possibly was) then gently pecked at Maude’s back, perhaps finding something to eat amongst her feathers, while Maude stood completely still. Afterwards, a little later, Maude flew at Goldie, and the two fronted up to each other again, chests out, feathers fluffed, then both backed off. The next time it was Goldie who initiated the challenge. Yet all headed off to the feijoa trees as a flock of friends, Mabel and Maude as usual side by side, Goldie and Wilma taking a more independent route.
Leave a Reply.