Sometimes I think that having a flock of hens is like having a bunch of kindergartners in my backyard. Hens are gregarious, endlessly curious, and vocal. They have friends but don’t want to share. They fuss about status and who has what. They like to play in the dirt. And there are always social situations to be resolved.
Snowball has a bad habit of plucking feathers off of other hens. She is sneaky about it – she’ll maneuver next to a hen that is sunbathing and peck as if she is mutually grooming, so at first the other chicken doesn’t mind – and then pluck! Last year, many of the girls had bare butts because of Snowball. It stopped over the winter, but she has started up again. A time-out and explanation might work for a real kindergartner, but not this girl.
At the same time that Snowball had resumed de-flocking the flock, I bought two new bantam white leghorns. These hens are so pretty in their perfect white feathers and bright red upright combs, that I call them “the party girls.” But, instead of having a good time, they’ve been harassed by the other hens who are bigger and older and don’t want to share. Anything. So the party girls went into the new coop. In, too, went Snowball. The party girls are skittish and won’t let Snowball near them, so they are still in fine feather.
At first, Snowball wanted to get back to the other flock. But now she’s settled in. Sure, there aren’t feathers to pluck, but there’s a lot less competition for food or the perfect roosting spot. Like kindergartners, hens are demanding but easy to please.