why can’t we all just get along?

September 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

I didn’t post this yesterday for two reasons – firstly because I wanted to be sure things were ok again before posting, and also because the 100% laying effort deserved to get all the attention.

Middish morning, there was a bit of kerfuffle in the chook run. I went out to see what was going on, and found Neroli and Poppy going at each other. Seriously too – not just hackling, pecking or clashing chests. They were jumping at each other, pulling feathers and hanging on to combs and wattles. Not fighting to the death(quite), but very much fighting with the intention of inflicting injury and making damn sure that the other hen acknowledged your superiority.Balinese cocks fighting

I suppose it shouldn’t have been a complete surprise  Neroli recently usurped Lily’s place. (That was a bit of a non-event: she essentially just pecked Lily a couple of times and Lily decided that she didn’t want to argue the second time.) Poppy is the lowest ranked chicken other than Neroli, and since the fall from power last year has been quite meek and submissive to the other hens. So a natural target for her Upwardly Mobile daughter. 

The one thing that Neroli didn’t know is that Poppy used to be Numero Duo, and was notoriously aggressive as a pullet … 

I won’t drag the story out. After the first fight, I separated them and checked each over for injuries. After a quick phone consultation with Stewart, we decided that the only real option was to give them space (so move them out of the Winter Garden run – they’d already managed to knock the 4 kg feeder off its hook!) and let them settle it. Interfering would only prolong matters.

It was really hard to do. They were as vicious as I’ve ever seen hens be – hanging off each other’s wattles, pecking and kicking and wrestling until they were both covered in blood. I separated them twice and took them away to clean up a bit, when I was worried that there might be something more than superficial damage. Lots of pecks to combs and wattles, hunks of feathers missing from heads and plenty of bruising and swelling on both faces (heads, ears, combs and wattles). And they fought each other to the point where they could barely stand up without leaning on each other. But that was all.

It took four pitched battles before there was a victor. Some of the other girls got involved towards the end – Claire and Venus, each of whom came over and delivered a couple of pecks to both combatants – I think they were as distressed by the whole thing as I was. It was certainly  an ‘enforcer’ type of thing. And finally Neroli decided that she’d had enough. So then it was a matter of (separately) washing their faces, dabbing them liberally with blue wound spray, and keeping a wary eye on them for the rest of the day.

We tried to separate Neroli from the others (everyone except Lily was taking the opportunity of reminding her that they too were above her in the pecking order) but she was determined to rejoin her flock. There were a couple more small scuffles between Neroli and Poppy, but nothing at all serious. Poppy was securely the victor. So we supervised bedtime, and left the pophole open overnight so that Neroli could escape if she needed to.

Today has been surprisingly calm. Neroli is definitely wary of the others, and Venus and Poppy do chase her a little. But it’s not aggressive, and she just scoots out of the way. They don’t pursue her at all. And she and Poppy have spent plenty of time side by side without any aggro.

Fingers crossed, that’s an end to it.

Combat de Coqs by Jean Leon Gerome

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