Blackie’s New Home

Blackie and Twinkydink are six-year old Australorps. Last fall I was sure that Blackie wouldn’t last the winter. She slowed down and spent most of her days sleeping in the sun. Egg laying ceased. She went from being a dominant hen to one that kept to the sidelines. She felt skinny. Other hens died of tumors and reproductive diseases but Blackie continued to roost, eat, and poop. Her feathers became scraggly, then her neck went bare, which is like a bull’s eye target calling for the other hens to peck it. I sprayed blu-kote on the reddened skin. Dark again, the hens left it alone.

Blackie has been looking worse and worse. She’s lost the feathers along her back and so she’s been subject to more pecking. Blackie hides on the roost during the day and tries to avoid the other hens during her brief forays in the yard. She’s not getting enough to eat. I’ve been hand-feeding her in the morning, but her crop is never full. Her time has come, and yet she doesn’t die.

I like to let the hens live out their days, and, although Blackie looks moth-eaten, she’s still ticking. I’ve no idea how long she can last like this, or what is going on inside of her, but, it’s become clear that the biggest threat to her are the other hens, especially the young and active Golden Comets. Those two have been going after all of the hens, asserting their dominance and being all-around trouble. The other hens get out of their way, but Blackie can’t. I don’t want Blackie to die by bullying, and so today I moved her into what was to be the broody coop.

This is the first springtime that I haven’t had a broody hen. Of course, this is the one spring that I’ve wanted one – to care for the new chicks. I’m sad not to have a clutch of little peeps in the charming house that Lauren and I made, but instead of being a nursery, it’s become a retirement home.

Blackie is inside, nestled in hay, with food and water all to herself. I’m sure she’ll be restless this evening, wanting to roost. Chickens hate change. But, I think she’ll quickly settle into her new place. I’m not sure where we’ll end up putting it – I want the house inside of secure fencing at night. For now, though, she can see the other hens, and they can see her. Lulu is jealous.


  1. Aw, Blackie. It’s not easy gettin’ old. So glad you have a place to be safe, and you can see your flock. That color red is perfect for a happy little retirement home!

  2. i think the retirement home will be good for her, and you. There will be other babies, and future broodies who will live in it. And you will remember how well you took care of her when she’s gone.

  3. I am happy that Blackie has a nice place to spend her sunset years but where will you put the chicks?

  4. Terry, your solution for Blackie is perfect: a kind of chicken Leisure World. I had noticed that Blackie seemed to spend an awful lot of time on the roost during the day and wondered what was going on. And thank you Steve for the new chicken cam setup; I, like other of the chicken cam fans, found that my Safari browser did very poorly with the old arrangement. Oh, and happy birthday to your silly (young) goats!

  5. Sorry to hear about the lack of a broody hen. The one time you want one. Ah, irony. Well, I think that things seem to have settled for the best, at least in terms of Blackie. Your wonderful little coop is going to a good use! I have my fingers crossed for chicks to arrive in the mail soon. For YOUR chicks to arrive soon, that is. I’m saying it once and I’ll say it again: I live vicariously.

  6. Sorry that Blackie is doing poorly but this is certainly a great solution for her retirement. Happy Birthday to the boys. Thank goodness I have no place for goats, because…..I have always been a Pip groupie.

  7. Terry..I have SEVERAL barred cochins who would love to brood for you! Come and get them! My English Sussex looks like she weights 50 pounds she is so spread out over the eggs…I wish she wouldn’t brood..she is a good layer otherwise…Glad you found a solution for Blackie…When they get old and keep going, you gotta do the right thing..You are a female St Francis!

  8. I’m sure Blackie is happy now that she’s not being bothered. I have a small coop (really more a 2-story rabbit hutch) that I keep inside the big coop for hens that need to be separate. It allows them to still be with their flock. I have a broody hen and I don’t want one this year. She’s not even a year old, silly girl. Maybe you and your friend need to get out your hammers, strap on your tool belts, and make another broody coop??

  9. Thanks, everyone for your well-wishes for Blackie. She’s settled in and looking relaxed. She’s been eating and drinking and lazing about.

  10. I am sorry about Blackie, but maybe that nursery will make her happier :)

  11. I’m sure the reason Blackie has lived so long is because you take such good care of your girls. They’re happy and healthy, busy, well fed and entertained. Now you even have a special retirement home for them! Is there any way Eleanor could be with her? They were caught sunbathing together in a previous post. Maybe they would like to keep each other company. I’m learning from you about chickens – and I think lesson #1 is: chickens don’t like to be alone – so… just a thought. Happy Birthday Boys!!!

    • I’d thought about putting Eleanor in with her. Eleanor is so slow and gimpy. But she’s not yet ready to be confined. Blackie seems quite content in her peaceful house.

  12. Poor Blackie, I am glad though that she has a place to feel more comfortable. Sigh…the golden comets I know got pecked on when they were young, and one the babies will get a hold of them too one day like they are doing to Blackie. But unfortunately that’s what chickens do, if your sick, young or old you get pecked more than normal. I am seeing with my cats as well of a sorts.
    Lilith as a kitten teased our siamese unmercifully, and know that she is eleven and he have a five month old kitten. He is know teasing her, and jumping on her tail just like she did ten years ago. I am sure in a few years whenever we get another kitten the same will be done Jesse. What can you do ?