Friday, October 5, 2012

Strange Relationships

As usual, there have been some non-typical things taking place out here on the farm.  Weird seems to be the norm around here, and most of it gets so far out there, I couldn't make it up if I tried.  I think we have probably all had our fair share of strange relationships.  You can't imagine the list of people that just ran through my head.  I won't share.  We don't have that much time.

To get to the story, we should move on.  I mentioned back in June, we had a chicken that was injured.  She was attacked by an unknown predator, and a nice size chunk was taken out of her thigh.  I really didn't think she would make it, but she hung in there.  She spent weeks living in the horse barn.  Then we began letting her run around a little everyday.  Rehab, if you will, and she began to get her strength back.  She started out with a major limp, and somehow managed to get her movement back a little at a time.  I really felt sorry for her, and was willing to let her hang out indefinitely, but the Man in Charge said, "No way!"  We had to get her back to her old life.

We knew we were in trouble when we tried to reintroduce her to the flock.  By all accounts, she was ready to go back to her old world, but to no avail.  She pretty much refused.  She would duck and dodge, and do whatever she found necessary to get back into the horse barn.  One day, I had had enough.  I forced her out.  As reluctant as she was to return to the rest of the group, they were equally as reluctant to accept her.  This started a lot of mean behavior from the others.  They would chase her down, jump on her, and peck her.  The sadder part is that she would do nothing to defend herself.

Not willing to watch this abuse take place, the Man in Charge suggested another tactic.  He suggested that I move the brood box into the hen house, and put her in it.  This would give them all a chance to be together, but they couldn't touch her.  We tried this approach for several days, and then slowly I would let her out for short periods each day.  We really weren't seeing any improvement.

My first thought was that the rest of the flock was just not accepting her because she was inferior.  She had lost a little weight, and she was not laying eggs during any of this time.  I am not sure how they figure these things out, but it seemed like a clear-cut-case of survival of the fittest.  Most people don't really realize how brutal nature can be, but they were isolating her.  Over the course of time, they did manage to settle down a bit.  When I would let the girls out in the morning, this hen would wait on the roost until all the others had cleared out.  Then she would hop down and spend the day staying on the edge of the flock.  Wherever they were, she would be a distance away.  She also spent a lot of time hanging around the barn.  Not in the barn, but near by.  The others chased her still on occasion, but it was less and less.

Then I started noticing something a little odd happening...

On the days that I let Deuce out in the pen off the barn, the chicken would be close by.  Not on occasion, but from the moment I let him out there, until I put him back inside.  She is usually within ten feet of him.

If he is munching on a big pile of hay...she is scratching on the other side of it.

If he goes back inside his stall...she waits by the door.

When he lays out flat in the middle of the pen to take a nap...she digs a little spot and naps with him.

This is funny enough, but even funnier if you know that one of Deuce's favorite past times is running through the chickens.  Out in the pasture, if they are together foraging, he loves to take off at a dead run right through the middle of them.  This is usually followed by a lap around the barn, and another pass through them on the way back by.  They go flying in every direction.  As much as he enjoys this, he does not chase this chicken.  He does not do anything to this chicken and, when she is with him, no one else chases her either.  After watching them take a nap together the other afternoon, I knew this was something special.

When the Man in Charge came home, I met him at the door and pointed in their direction.  He asked, "What?"  I said, "I am not sure if your horse has a chicken, or if my chicken has a horse?"  This has continued.  Even to the point that when the veterinarian came out the other day to look at Deuce, his chicken walked out of the pen as we walked in.  She stood just on the other side of the water trough, watching us the whole time.  As he wrapped up his examination, I told him we should get out of there so my horse's friend could come back.  He looked perplexed for a moment, then I pointed in her direction.  He got a funny look on his face and we left the pen.  As we walked out the front of the barn, she came back in the pen.  He shook his head, "That is not normal."

Little does he know...

P.S.  In the wake of our coyote chase, I have kept this hen separated from the others.  I felt it would be mean to lock her up with the others.  They would just be after her the whole time.  She is laying an egg everyday.  After a couple of days of keeping the hens inside, I have started letting Deuce's chicken out when he is out.  They still hang out together.  I have tried to get a photo.  She is very camera shy.  I am going to have to be very sneaky to get this shot.

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