Misty Settles In

In a flock of hens there’s always drama. Like the reality show Survivor, chickens see themselves as being castaways with limited resources. They form alliances. They guard what’s theirs and they plot for more. There’s friendship and competition, foraging, and naps in the sun. Balance is achieved, but easily rocked. Recently the balance here was shaken. I brought Beulah back from the nursing home. I uncovered feather picking amongst the tribes. And, like the host on the show, I shuffled the groups.

Misty is a Blue Andalusian, which is a flighty, nervous, high-energy breed. Andalusians have large, floppy combs which are like bulls eye targets for the others to peck at, but these birds are fast and agile, and so can step out of the way of aggressors. In fact, in a mixed flock, the Andalusian is, if not on the top of the pecking order, able to dart here and there and get what they need.

Misty is both a confirmed feather picker, and she was the top hen in the Ladies tribe. If it was up to Misty, Beulah would have stayed out in the cold and never have been allowed to step foot in the coop. Misty, what with her feather picking and bullying, had become a problem in with the Ladies, so I moved her in with the Gems. The Gems already knew her from free-ranging on the lawn together. There have, in the past, been chest-thumping challenges, but the two flocks tend to keep to themselves when out on the lawn, so the skirmishes never amounted to much.

The Gem’s run isn’t covered by hawk netting, and Misty can fly, so I clipped her wings. According to the books, just the large flight feathers on one side have to be cut off. This would both put her off-balance and prevent lift-off.



I put Misty on the roost so that she could get a lay of the land, and the Gems could see her.



Soon enough, Misty hopped down and the Gems told her to Go Away. In another flock, and a smaller and more poorly designed coop, this could have turned into a blood bath. Hens will pin down an interloper and peck at her head until death. But, I know the Gems, I know that there’s plenty of space and resources. I knew it’d be okay. I added some fresh bedding for them to scratch in and be distracted by, both inside and out. Misty was chased. She ran outside. She looked back inside. She was told to leave. She did.



The Gems ignored her, unless she came too close. Then they scared her off. She stared longingly at her old coop. Even Lily knew that this one didn’t belong in with the Gems.



Things looked peaceful enough so I went back into the house. I soon got an email from an observant HenCammer. Misty was on the lawn. She’s a hen that doesn’t particularly like human attention, but when she saw me on the back steps, Misty came running. Take me home! she said. I didn’t. I don’t know how she managed to fly with one clipped wing, but I clipped the other and put her back in with the Gems.


An hour later she was back on the lawn. I have no idea how she got up and over a six-foot fence. I clipped the wings even shorter.  Misty finally stayed put.

I watched the dynamics in the coop and was chagrined to see that, even in a new flock, and with lowered status, Misty still snaked her head out to pick a feather off of another hen. This was gentle and not at all aggressive. I’ve been reading that this type of feather picking is related to preening and bonding, but I still don’t like to see it!

The next day, the Gems had really put Misty in her place. She was either under the nesting boxes or in a corner of the yard. That’s good. She would no longer be a bully.

By today, you couldn’t even tell that she was a) a new hen in a flock and b) a reformed bully. This is what I like to see – hens going about their day evenly spaced out:



Once in awhile, a hen pecks at Misty to tell her to keep her distance. I like seeing that, too.



I know it’s all okay because look at Misty’s comb. Amazingly, after all of this drama, it’s not bloodied.



On top of that, I know that Misty has settled in because yesterday she laid an egg, like a good hen, right in the nesting box.


  1. Pecking order dynamics are so fascinating. When I have time, I love just watching things unfold in my tiny flock, like Jane Goodall and the gorillas. The psychology of the chicken is far more interesting than anything on TV these days. Thanks for the amazing pictures to go with the transitions – especially of the escape artist in the yard! Misty looks beautiful and glad to see she’s found her place.

  2. I agree Christine! They certainly have earned that moniker, The Gems. They ‘reformed’ Siouxsie and Edwina and now Misty. Terry, I hope all proceeds well now with the hens. The picture of Misty running to you is priceless!

    • I was laughing! This is a hen who never liked me near her and she ran up and practically asked me to pick her up and take her back.

  3. I have one hen that wing clipping didn’t work on. I watched her compensate for the “off balance” situation. Clipping both wings helped a bit more, but she’s still getting out of the designated chicken area of the yard every once in a while. At one point I set up a video camera to catch how she was getting into my fenced off herb garden.

    • Thank you. Not only does close observation make for a healthier flock, but it also makes caring for them that much more enjoyable. I like knowing the animals.

  4. Glad all has settled down.
    Sometimes chickens are what I call “fence walkers”. Even after a one wing clip or a two wing clip they still get out. I’ve watched a many just jump up on the fence as high as they can, then walk, flap and pull themselves up the wire with their beak all in one quick motion to get to the top.
    Glad Misty has been grounded for her own safety.

  5. OMG! You had MAJOR chicken drama! Glad all worked out! Moving all my girls in their NEW and IMPROVED chicken CONDO thanks to ELIZABETH and her wonderful coop plans. Everyone will HAVE to get along now that my two coops will be integrated!

  6. Thank you for the excellent pictures and explanation! this morning Owlie eems to be enjoying chasing Beulah around. The last time I looked on the camera Misty was chasing Owlie, so I guess she’s enjoying getting back at another black hen!
    I have been fortunate with my present group of four ( same age as the gems). The pecking order shuffles when they’re molting, but the rest of the time, they seem to get along very comfortably. when the top buff Orpington was growing back her tailfeathers, the other buff Orpington, a real Loaner in normal times, tried to take over. now everybody is looking their best and seem to be much calmer. Also they’re all laying eggs again finally!

  7. The one hen in the center of the photo of Misty on the roost has the I see a hawk look. Neck stretched high and long, erect tail and wings slightly downward.

  8. Andalusian’s are AMAZING flyers. Keep an eye on her. Just because she stayed put today doesn’t mean she will in the future. I had clipped the wings on mine and she was still able to get up 5 feet up off the ground with little effort.

    Fortunately, my flock dynamic is in a good place today and while she flies around the yard, she’s never gone up over the fence to the neighbors.

    I tell her every day that my yard is a strict no fly zone and that she needs to keep both feet on the ground at all times like her sisters. But there’s no talking to her.

    • The configuration of the door and the fencing makes it difficult to install. There’s criss-crossed string and a grape arbor that keeps the hawks out.

      • My husband wanted the criss cross string. But I was still worried bout other animals getting in. Love your posts.

        • It’s only good for hawks, and I’ve heard of some small species that do fly in. Because of the configuration of the pen, the red tails, that we have around here, don’t fly in. The string doesn’t keep out any four legged and climbing predators.

  9. I was wondering if the hens were smart enough to go to you to fix their problems. I am sure the first thing the Gems do when you bring in a strange hen, they probably go straight to you and start complaining right at your feet.

  10. Oh, so it was only Misty who realized you could take her back to the little barn. So they never complain then to you, or ask you to fix an issue like a dog or cat will if they can’t figure out how to do it easily themselves.

  11. This is fascinating. Chicken soap opera of the finest kind. Looks like Misty is asking Lily to go get you to save her.

  12. I have a blue andalusian too… and she has the same body style and comb, but her body feathers are more of a grey color.. only her head is black. She is also the bottom of the pecking order. I had to get rid of a buff orp last year because she was picking the feathers off ALL my other chickens. What a bully! And I was under the impression they were a docile chicken. She was given to a woman who has a large flock, we threw her right in, and she started picking on the rooster! Then the rooster told her where to go.

  13. When clipping the wings do the hens feel any pain? Inquiring minds want to know!

  14. I can see a little furry critter crawling around on HenCam. Little beady eyes lit up! Looking for a snack.

    • Me too! Looks like some kind of mouse. It uses it hind legs together most of the time, so probably some kind of jumping mouse. What do you have up there, Terry? (It’s sad, I’m half screened so I can keep on keepin’ on the computer, but I’m also sitting here telling a rodent to, “Come to the light and hold still, dammit!”)

        • It is very likely the white-footed mouse. This fall I saw it’s tracks going into the pumpkin ( a safe place to eat!) Chickens will chase, kill and eat mice, so it’s good for the mouse that it’s outside at nighttime.

  15. “Misty”? -more like “Stormy”! What a character…must be trying to fill Siouxee’s shoes.

    • Ah, but poor Siouxsie was quite dim-witted, whereas Misty is as sharp as a chicken comes. You’re right, Stormy would have been a better name!

  16. Love this – I also found clipping one wing doesn’t stop a determined hen from flying over a six foot fence. I clipped both wings and they were still doing it. It wasn’t until I watched them for a couple of hours that I realised they were using the compost heap – which was inside the coop so they could have a good dig around – as a kind of trampoline to springboard over the fence with an ungainly kind of jumping / hopping motion. Who said chickens are stupid?!

    Thanks for sharing your story and your pics – I always enjoy them. :)

    • I had to change my in-coop compost pile because the hens were launching off the sides. I switched to chicken wire, which worked for them. I’m fearful that Misty will discover it soon enough though :)

  17. Pretty Gwen ( who came with Grumpy) has an very interesting place in our coop, she isn’t top chicken but she is the most vocal and aggressive towards the guineas and I think might even fight of predators better than Grumpy. I have even seen her take on a squirrel who got to close to the bird feeder area. Gwen is still very shy of us and we aren’t allowed but a one foot gap between us and her, but she always wants to know what we are up to and of course where the treats are. I love seeing how Misty compares to my Andalusians.

    • Great to hear from you, April! (April took 2 of my Andalusians last year. One was a very pretty grey one, the other a Roo named Mr. Grumpy.) I think that of all of the chickens I’ve ever had, that the Andalusian has the most distinctively unique personality. You’re right – sort of like a cross between a guinea and chicken. I’ve seen Misty go after a sparrow in the pen, so I’m not surprised about the squirrel. I’m glad to hear that they’re doing well.