Buffy’s Purple Head

Buffy has had more lives than a cat, but I think that she’s on her last one.

She arrived here in the summer of 2006, given to me by a new chicken keeper who had a killer in her flock. One by one her hens were dying, done in by an aggressive chicken that pummeled the heads of her flockmates. Buffy, with no feathers left near her comb, and spatters of blood on her, was next in line. If it were me, I’d have disposed of the bully, but at least the owner knew enough to save her hens. So, Buffy joined what was then a small flock. She fit in fine. The bald spot on her forehead was a permanent reminder of her past.

A year later a respiratory disease, likely mycoplasma, swept through the flock. A side symptom was conjunctivitis. Poor Buffy wheezed and her eyes were squeezed shut with gunk. I gave her Tylan. I put drugs in her eyes. She recovered.

In 2008 Buffy couldn’t stand up. It was a mystery illness that I think was due to ingesting too much vetch in the springtime when that was the only green plant in the meadow to eat. I dosed her with epsom salts. I babied her. She survived.

She survived another bout of respiratory disease. She has survived vent gleet. She’s been broody and suffered from heat. She’s laid eggs and not laid eggs. These days Buffy has a hard time getting down from the roost in the morning, so I lift her off. She’s old. Buffy sun bathes more than scratches. I have been keeping my eye on her (or, as Wendy calls it, “lookering.”) About two weeks ago I noticed that her comb was dark and shriveled. This week I noticed that the comb had been pecked at. When a hen that is not normally bullied shows signs of being low on the pecking order, you know that something is amiss.

Yesterday I found her in the coop on the roost in the middle of the day. Notice her tail-down stance and her back to the world.

A big chunk of her comb was gone and her head was bloody. I cleaned her up and colored it with Blu-kote. Blue-kote is not only an antiseptic, but it also hides red. Buffy’s crown is now dark purple. That should help to lessen the pecking.

Today Buffy is back on the roost, and she has company. Betsy has joined her. Betsy has been looking frail for awhile. I’ve retired her from school visits. I’m keeping my eye on her, too.

When they no longer roost I know that their time is up. For now, though, I’ll leave these two old friends to their days together.


  1. You have taught me so much about observing my hens. And I’m here to testify to the power of the Epsom Salts treatment! Glad to see that Buffy has some companionship in her infirmity.

  2. Look at those two old ladies! They are lovely, I always worry when they are ill but its so good to hear yours are elderly and just happy sitting in the sun.

  3. I’m sorry about your two girls who are under the weather. Is this the “storm” that hit you while Steve is away?

  4. I also have a 5 yr. old hen, Gully who is a Light Brahma, that I lift off the roost every morning and have to help her sometimes at night to get on the roost. She has poor eyesight and was always a bit of a clutze. (My husband has always called her Kramer.) I have noticed she also is spending alot of time dust bathing and not scratching, and rarely comes for the treats. I spend alot of time “watching” her knowing that her time is ending.

    Glad Buffy and Betsy have each other.

  5. It makes me happy that you have such compassion and empathy for your girls. I wish more creatures could enjoy such sweet endings.

  6. Thank you for this post. I arrived home from work yesterday to find our littlest hen, Henrietta, bruised, battered and bloody from a bully in the flock. I have yet to determine who it was. I carried my poor little girl into the house where we’ll nurse her back to health. I feel terrible!

    • This happens in all flocks. If you have a small hen, or bantam, it helps to have a space that they can get in that the others can’t. Or a high roost that they like but the others are too heavy to leap to. I’m sure she’ll be fine and you’ll figure out a way to integrate her into the flock.

  7. A testament to your writing skill – yes i did cry – so sweetly told. Strong witness to the power of nature in our lives – Beautiful!

  8. Poor Buffy, she is one of my favorites. I hope she and Betsy will at least have a nice spring.

  9. Your Buffy was the inspiration for our flock of 4 Buff Orps in 2007. I always look for her on camera. I’m sorrowful that she won’t have many more years of health and scratching. Hugs.

  10. We lost one of our old girls to a coyote a few days ago. I’m thinking it was a mom coyote needing to feed pups because she boldly trotted across the lawn, grabbed Miss Wyandotte who was near the house with two younger hens, and fled. We ran outside and gave chase but of course, she was faster than us and the dogs, running for her life as she was. I wish the old girl could have grown old(er), slowing down to perch or sunbathe most of the day.