"Meet The Flock" Roundup - May & June, 2016

Here's a recent picture of Angitou the Golden Polish hen. Angitou went through a rare spring molt (chickens typically lose their feathers and grow new ones in the fall). She looked like a porcupine for a while with all those pin feathers sticking out, but now she's got all that shiny new plumage & is quite attractive. Angitou lays an abundance of small white eggs, & has a sweet personality - she's happy to be picked up & carried around.

Meet Angitou the Polish hen as a child! The popularity of the Facebook post on Angitou was pleasantly surprising. That was the first of a planned series of pictures of the chickens in my flock. I chose Angitou for the first one not because she is the prettiest, or my favorite, but simply because I decided to do it alphabetically. But due to Angitou's new-found fame, here's another of her - a photo from her childhood! She's about six weeks old in this 2014 shot.

Meet Emile. Flock provider and protector or abusive polygamist? You be the judge. Emile is a bantam birchen Cochin and the alpha rooster in my flock. Cochin is the name for Emile’s breed - a fluffy footed chicken breed that originated in China. Birchen describes his handsome silver and black color pattern. Bantam refers to his diminutive size but in no way reflects on his attitude. As the alpha roo, Emile is a busy guy - always hurrying from one part of the run to another to end interpersonal kerfuffles between the hens and he is always vigilant and on the look-out for predators while the flock nonchalantly pecks and scratches its way through the run. He would fight to the death to defend his hens and has actually taken me on more than once when I’ve had to pick up or interact with a protesting hen. A less positive attribute is that Emile is a busy guy in other ways. His quest for “favors” from the hens is never-ending, and he regards the whole flock as his “hens with benefits”. He does perform a cute little courtship dance (stay tuned for a movie of the “Emile Shuffle”), but that’s all he’s got – no witty repartee, no flowers and no candy. It’s just dance then hop on. And he doesn’t understand the concept of “consent”. His idea of consent is when the hen doesn’t run away. No, actually, his idea of consent is when the hen doesn’t run away fast enough. A pretty primitive attitude, perhaps, but excusable in his case – he’s a chicken, don’t you know.

This sweet hen is Willow the buff Orpington, one of the senior members of my flock. Orpington is the name of Willow’s breed. Orpingtons were originally developed near Orpington in the county of Kent, England. “Buff” refers to her pretty yellow color. Willow is a large hen – so large that I’ve always worried about her injuring herself as she ungracefully flies/jumps/falls off the roost each morning. I’ve always tried to get to the coop before her attempt and have gently lifted her down. Unfortunately, my fears have been realized and Willow recently sustained some sort of injury. I noticed that she had developed a limp. There was nothing obvious when I looked her over and I’ve hoped that she would eventually recover, but instead she’s actually gotten worse. Willow now walks slowly and no longer roosts at night – she can’t jump onto the roost. The worse part of her situation is the abuse she gotten from Emile the rooster. Emile is looking for “favors” from his hens constantly and his idea of consent is when the hen doesn’t run away fast enough. Poor Willow can’t run. And Emile likes it rough – Willow is missing feathers on her back where Emile digs in with his spurs, and the back of her head is bald where Emile grabs on with his beak. Willow is now living in a shelter and has a restraining order against Emile. The restraining order was issued by me and the shelter is the center part of the pole barn where I normally keep tools and park the tractor. She’s living there by herself, but she can visit the chickens in both coops through the fence any time she wants. She’s eating well, is bright eyed and alert, and while she is still moving around slowly, she seems to be improving. Eventually, I may introduce her into the small coop with Snowball and the Silkie hens and see how that goes. It’s a little less rough and tumble there, and she may fit right in.

This is Arlene, a Barred Plymouth Rock hen. “Barred” refers to her black and white stripes and Plymouth Rock is the name of her breed – a breed developed in New England in the early 1800’s. Pretty much everybody shortens Barred Plymouth Rock to “Barred Rock.” Arlene was among the first batch of chicks I got in 2013 and has the distinction of being the first hen ever to lay and egg here at the ranch. When she was younger, Arlene would fly up to my shoulder so she could see the world from a higher perspective. She apparently feels that sort of behavior is not appropriate for an adult hen, since she’s stopped doing it. She still does persistently follow me around the coop and will occasionally peck me on the leg—not to be aggressive but just to remind me that she’s there.

Meet Barbara the Barred Rock. At the risk of being risqué, this is a picture of Barbara taking a bath. Chickens, counterintuitively, take a bath by wallowing in the dirt. They usually find a spot in the chicken run with exposed dirt and dig a hole to get the dirt loose, then they roll around in the dirt while flapping their wings and kicking their feet to make as big a mess as possible—all the while clucking contentedly. Then they get up and produce a huge dust cloud by shaking themselves off. I’m sure that if you asked them they couldn’t tell you why they do this, but the process does destroy mites and other critters that like to live in chicken’s feathers and suck their blood. Since my Minnesota hens can’t dust-bathe outside when the ground is covered with snow, I have this section of cement culvert on its side in the coop which I keep about half full of a mixture of sand, wood ashes, and diatomaceous earth. It is big enough for two or three chickens to take a communal bath while others perch on the edge and socialize. Stay tuned for a movie of Barbara dust bathing that I shot at the same time I took this photo!

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