Beulah Returns

The nursing home hens have been doing their job. The memory loss residents watch what’s going on in the coop from their activity room windows. Other residents have to go outside to see the chickens, which isn’t a bad thing. I heard from a friend who’s mother is in rehab there after a broken hip. On Saturday the weather warmed to the 40s and she wheeled Marian outside to see the flock. If not for the animals, they would have stayed indoors. My friend looks forward to bringing the great-grandchildren for a visit.

green coop


The other thing that the hens have done is to uplift the days of the people who work at the nursing home. Lisa, originally skeptical of the project, now spends her lunchtime and breaks with her favorite hen, Clementine.



But, all was not well with the girls. I’d been called about some feather loss around the tails. I went to see what was going on. There was no blood-letting, but the plumage was certainly shortened and sparse. I watched the flock for twenty minutes. As I observed the dynamic amongst the four girls I didn’t see any obvious signs of aggression. They ate comfortably next to each other.

hens eating


However, Clementine was clearly on the bottom of the pecking order and skittered away if the other hens even looked at her. She had the barest bottom, made worse by runny white diarrhea. It looks like vent gleet to me.



Today Lisa is going to give Clementine a warm soak in an epsom salt bath and treat with povidone. Hopefully, I’m right about the vent gleet and the treatment will clear up the mess. However, I could be wrong, and I’ll be checking back in with LIsa next week.

Feather picking is, I think, the number one concern for most backyard chicken keepers. Once this bad habit starts, it’s hard to break, especially if it spreads to more than one hen. What I observed at LIfe Care was that there was only one culprit.  Beulah, the Black Star, was the only hen with nary a feather out of place.



In a case like this, the easiest thing to do is to remove the aggressor. Four hens would be as good as five for entertaining the residents of the nursing home. I put Beulah in a crate and brought her back home.

Because Beulah was originally from the same batch of chicks as the Literary Ladies, and because she’s been in a “closed flock” (one not exposed to other poultry), and because I know that neither of the flocks has seen illness, I wasn’t worried about biosecurity and so didn’t have to quarantine her. I’m also not worried about Beulah returning to her feather-picking ways. Putting her in with a new flock deposes Beulah of her top-hen status. The bad habit should be broken. However, integrating one hen into an established group can be a challenge. There will be pecking. There will be consternation and upheaval.. In this case, though, 24 hours after bringing Beulah home, she has rejoined the flock that she knew as chicks with little drama. Does she still remember them? I have no way of knowing. But, I’ll tell you how I integrated this one chicken into the group in my next post. In the meanwhile, you might see a bit of chasing as the new pecking order settles down – don’t worry about it!

It’s not easy to tell the two Black Stars apart, so I’ve put a blue band on Beulah’s right leg. Also, her chest is a tad darker than Nancy Drew’s, the other Black Star in the flock.

Black star


  1. Ah, the tale of “the little black hen” is resolved, all without the help of Nancy Drew..or perhaps she recognized her sister chick after all, but chose not to tell. It is lovely to hear how much the hens have cheered and amused the nursing home residents (now why do I say that; I am always cheered and amused by daily visits to the HenCam! Thank you Terry!!

  2. So much food for thought, I wrote a while back about only one of my four australorps started molting and I was worried about the cold… she was always lowest on the pecking order. Although her feathers are starting to come back her bright red comb is now a slight grey and when I let them free range, she keeps her distance from the other three.. We’ve used bluecote and pick-no-more and I’m afraid the other three pecking at her will be the end…so, my question is….will hen’s kill each other?

    • If hens are crowded so that the lowest status hen can’t get away from the aggressor, and if she is picked until there is blood, then yes, hens can kill. If a hen is sick and weak (like Buffy was) and if there is an aggressor, then, yes, she might be killed. If your hen is free-ranging, or if she has a place to hide, then she will be okay. Keeping the distance is smart. There’s always one in a small flock that has to. It’s not an issue. The grey comb, though, might be a sign of a problem. Or not. In this cold weather, combs do go paler.

  3. Well their has been research done to say that hens can recognize and remember up to a 100 individual and an frequent commenter on your blog from England has told about her broody hen recognizing a rooster she raised from a chick and hadn’t seen in a year. So I think the other girls would recognize her, and would take her return in stride than a complete stranger they have never seen. They would also probably more easily inter mix and tolerate a Gem moving in them as well, since they have grown up with the flock next door. What gets me if the Literacy ladies do recognize Beulah is that chickens recognize each other by their combs, but when the nursing home pullets left they were what only three months or younger ? And their combs weren’t fully developed yet, I don’t even think more than the tips of their combs were showing. So I assume the tips of the comb go towards recognization than the full grown comb. Beulah also might have communicated to the Ladies with the same body language and calls in the same dialect and way that the chicks developed as they aged. I won’t be surprised if it was found that indivdual flocks of chickens had their own dialects in the universal chicken language.

  4. I do the same thing Terry..When one of my hens is being annoying, I throw her in the coop with the old girls. One day of hanging out with them and they are ready to go back in with their old flock and their wicked ways have vanished.

    • Lol not unless you have an hen who acts like Edwina and only by keeping her in the Gems full time to stop her exteme bullying.

  5. Looks like Misty is chasing Beulah out of the coop every time she tries to come in to join the rest of the flock. Everyone else is inside, since it’s snowing where you are now. Beulah keeps checking out the hutch every time she’s chased out, maybe as a last resort for shelter if she isn’t able to join the others in the Little Barn. Seems like all the other hens, with the exception of Misty, are ignoring her rather than actively chasing her off. Now that Beulah is lowest in the pecking order, does this mean that Betsy will have elevated status or will she share lowest status with Beulah? Is Phoebe okay with the newcomer?

    • Misty is the chicken with the highest status, so she is going to chase her away. It’s the way it is. Betsy will not have higher status. She is old and knows to stay out of the way. She won’t even try.

  6. long story about how this all came about, but animals must have memories from an earlier age thru a longer period of life than we could ever hope to attain.
    decided this by being one important human to a family of kittens. when they grew up, over the months away from the exact spot where they were born and then brought back to it, they remembered even the piece of furniture that their mother had birthed them behind.
    humbling to think of the things there are yet to learn about our little companions

  7. Beulah is on the ramp, closing her eyes. like she’s almost falling asleep. She doesn’t seem to be cold, but she has definitely not integrated into the flock. Perhaps an intervention is in order.

    • No intervention necessary, and in fact there’s no way to instantaneously make the hens let her be part of the flock What I see is great. Beulah is relaxed. The other hens aren’t chasing her away. She can go into the rabbit hutch if she wants. They’re all getting used to each other without drama.

  8. Yes, looks like they are not going to let her in. Will the hutch keep her warm enough?

  9. I think it must be Beulah I saw outside the run a couple of days ago (I had thought it was perhaps Onyx who had got out.) Twiggy was on the outside perch, with Nancy Drew, happily ignoring the hen by the mesh. When Misty emerged from the coop, however, she sidled up to the mesh in aggressive pose and Beulah moved off in the other direction. Integration – or re-integration – is always a challenge; I’m pleased to see that, so far, it is going as well as could be expected.

    • It’s going great, but this unexpected snow has made it more difficult because all of the hens are inside, which means that Beulah can’t go in, explore, and roost.

  10. With your little white hen (sorry, I don’t know her name) it looks like her tail is damaged from wear…I’d check out where she’s roosting at night and see if she’s sitting with her butt jammed up against something to break her tail feathers off.

    • That’s Betsy. She’s old. She’s a pest to the other hens. If she gets near them they pull her feathers – so she doesn’t look great, but she’s not harmed in the least. She likes to hang out under the nesting boxes with Phoebe. So, no show-quality feathers for her :)

  11. I am laughing at your wonderful Goat cam…I have been telling my husband about your cams and today when he got up to go to work I said “hey lets look at the goat cam!” Some one is sleeping beside it….big hairy side that is breathing steadily! The chickens are done some very personal cleaning of nether parts and it just made us laugh!
    Thank you for the view from your farm!

  12. … and oh, poor Clementine! That does not look comfortable at all. If memory serves, didn’t Buffy suffer from vent gleet at some point too? Are some breeds more susceptible to this?

    • Not breeds. But some chickens get it and it can be recurring. I believe that stressed hens (Buffy had been severely bullied before arriving here) are more susceptible. But that’s just a theory on my part.

  13. Could it be “feather lice”. We had a chicken that looked like that. All the feathers.grew back after treatment. What is “vent gleet”? We are getting one egg every three days thx to Twizzle, the lowest in order. Shady is trying her best but is overcome with rage when Twizzle runs madly in front of her trying to get out in the morning.
    P.S. I have a pattern for a chicken sweater if you ever ned it

    • I’m sorry that you had to deal with feather lice. Was the outbreak in your flock limited to just the one chicken? I’d think that it would have spread as lice are mobile creatures. Betsy doesn’t have feather lice, and in fact her feathers are in rather good shape.
      Vent gleet is a yeast infection that causes a runny, bare, raw bottom. If you do a HenBlog archive search, you’ll find photos and info on how to fix it.