When I bought my chicks at the local farm supply store, I’ve mentioned before that I was pretty clueless. I walked from stock tank to stock tank of peeping cuteness and finally stopped at one and watched the chicks pecking like jack hammers at the feed in their long feeder. When someone finally offered to help me, I said that I wanted “three of those black ones and three of those chipmunk ones”. I’m sure they thought I was a chicken expert when I used those highly scientific chicken breed types of “black ones” and “chipmunk ones”.
The three chipmunk ones turned out to be Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers and allegedly they lay blue eggs. Mine don’t lay any eggs yet and we pointed out to them last night that they need to quit being such freeloaders and get on with the egg laying. Anyway, the Ameraucana chicks were terribly adorable and grew up to be Cluck Norris, Gloria and Roseanna. Cluck is our Head-Rooster-In-Charge who you can read about HERE. Gloria is a pretty little pullet with beautiful chestnut colored feathers and she can be a bit flighty, but she seems to be Cluck’s favorite girl. They usually roost side-by-side. Roseanna…well…didn’t turn out to be the prettiest chicken I’ve ever seen…and I think she may not have both oars in the water either.
Roseanna is a mousey-brown-grey-gold color. She’s a little odd-looking in that it looks as though a hawk’s head was put on a funny looking chicken body. She has a fuzzy beard on her face and the feathers on her head don’t quite lay down right. She always looks like she’s slightly panicked about something or perhaps angry about something. She’s built lighter than the other pullets and is tremendously fast. Early in the spring, it became obvious quite early that she was fascinated with catching bugs and pretty good at it too. She’d wait until a bug flew close to the hanging lights in the coop and then take a flying leap and catch it in mid-air. Every night, she’d streak around the coop, chasing bugs until she either snapped them up with her beak or they flew out of her reach. We noticed that she still seemed to frantically dash about the coop even when there didn’t seem to be any bugs around, but we just figured she has a better idea about bugs than we do and we didn’t think too much else of it.
Roseanna is also tremendously stubborn and possessive. If she picks a spot on the roosting bar, nobody better try to take it. If one of the other birds tries to jump up next to her, she hunkers down on the roost and snarls, growls and bites the intruder’s toes until they either get the hint and move away from her or she pushes them off the bar entirely and they hit the floor with a thud. I thought it was cute at first, but Chicken Bedtime has become a bit more stressful because she wants the entire roosting bar to herself, which wouldn’t be a problem if the other chickens would just use the other places they have to roost, but they all insist on roosting on the same bar. It’s basically ten feet of chickens trying to cram onto a four-foot roost. Roseanna clucks and growls and pecks and carries on the whole time everyone is trying to get situated on the bar and she simply will NOT move from the space she’s chosen. Of course that ticks off everyone else and the pretty soon they all become a mass of twirling feathers, beaks and feet that clucks and screeches. It’s usually all Roseanna’s fault because she won’t move.
I’ve noticed recently that the flock has shunned Roseanna. She is typically by herself in the run, investigating something invisible or running at breakneck speed. If she tries to join the group while they are Scratching for Treasure (read as “vacuuming up scratch grains”) they peck her until she screeches and runs away. I told Roseanna that it’s all in her approach to things. Instead of just walking up to the scratch fest, she bulldozes her way into the group and usually runs over a couple of her flock mates. The rest of the flock reacts by pecking the snot out of Roseanna until she careens off to another part of the run, and then they go back to scratching. Roseanna has never been hurt by the others, though. She clearly annoys them, but there have never been unprovoked attacks. I have to think that if someone ran me over when I was trying to eat a snack that I’d get a bit testy too. I think she’s been lucky so far that one of them hasn’t gotten more violent with her.
I feel sorry for her. She’s like that kid in high school that looked different and behaved really strangely. I think we all either knew, or were that kid. The kid who really wasn’t bullied or was a bully, but is so different from everyone else that they stand out like a sore thumb and no one will talk to them because they have “cooties”. It’s clear that Roseanna is that kid in my flock. The others just don’t want her around because she’s in their face, stepping on their backs, taking their food (she stole a much prized butterfly that someone else caught), pushing them off the roost, or tearing around like she’s on fire when they’re trying to take one of their 234 daytime naps. They don’t understand the way that she behaves, but they know that she doesn’t fit in with the social structure of the flock and so they keep her out of their group.
Last night, I was watching them settle down for the night. Cluck was on his usual roost watching the rest of the flock finish up their drinks and snack bedtime routine. Roseanna had been doing high-speed laps around the coop when she spied Cluck on the roost and sped over to check things out. I think she has a little crush on Cluck because whenever she sees him alone, she usually tries to insinuate herself into his general area. Roseanna looked up at Cluck on the roosting bar and grumbled under her breath. She hopped up on the bar and shoved Cluck with her head. Cluck shifted around on the roost, but didn’t move. She stuck her head under his breast feathers and just sat there. I assumed that she was going to try to tear his toes off like she does to the others who try to roost on HER roosting bar. She didn’t move. She just sat there with her head under Cluck’s breast feathers. Cluck relaxed a little bit and resumed alternately preening and watching the others. When he relaxed, Roseanna seized the opportunity to shove herself under his wing. Cluck allowed her to snuggle in close with his wing over her back. Roseanna closed her eyes snuggled closer.
Right about this time, in every situation, Vinnie shows up. He walked back and forth in front of Roseanna and Cluck whistling and “cluck-cluck-clucking”. Then he made the fatal mistake of jumping up on the roosting bar with them and Roseanna had a full-blown, screeching, clucking, feather-flying meltdown. She lunged at Vinnie, he jumped off the roosting bar to save his school bus yellow toes from her pinching beak and Cluck…who had no idea what was going on…launched himself across the coop where he stood trembling and looking confused. Which come to think of it, is his reaction to everything. There was refreshed chaos in the coop and I watched while they chased Roseanna away from the group and she retreated to resume her racing around and jumping on and off perches.
I feel bad for the flock and for Ro-Ro (that’s what we call her). She’s just a hot mess and she doesn’t show any signs of stopping her behavior and the flock doesn’t show many signs of tolerating her weirdness. I’m attributing it all to PMS. Maybe she’s just going through that geeky, weird, teenage stage before she reaches puberty and starts to lay eggs. I’m leaving it to the flock to sort everything out because they understand their pecking order rules much more clearly than I do, but she’s currently low chicken on the chicken totem pole. Of course, if things get more heated, I’m going to have to do something about it.
I just have no idea what that will be…as usual!