Meet Pearl, the hen who runs things around here. How is it that one chick out of a box of 12 can be so different? It is spring 2013 and after a couple months I had to separate two chicks from the rest due to “the pecking order.” The feathers in their beautiful crowns were being picked clean. Immediately after moving them next door into a hastily converted dog house, Pearl flew over the fence and joined the two chicks who were being picked on. She refused to move back, even though the dog house was barely large enough for her and the two little white crested black Polish hens.
Pearl’s roommates seemed delighted to have her in their play yard and little house. But then, Pearl only stayed overnight. During the day she flew out of the pen and traveled far and wide, scratching in the flower beds and raking up wood chip mulch into mountains, leaving craters in the dirt where she dug for worms, bugs or whatever it is chickens dig in the dirt to find. I soon gave up trying to rake the mulch back into the beds she left in disarray and was constantly amazed at the sight of her wandering all over the place while all the rest of the chicks were content to stay home.
We were about 90% complete with renovation of the historic old chicken house and the weather was telling us it was time to make the move from the brooder house into “The Big House!” Pearl and her two little roommates joined the other 9 hens in a fairly traumatic move. Things did not go well. Little Marilyn and Phyllis, the white crested black Polish hens were being picked on again and had to be moved back into their former quarters in the converted dog house. Before long, Pearl made her escape from “the big house,” traveling north up the road, around the garden fence and over the chicken yard fence to join the Polish hens where she was content to spend the winter.
The following spring 2014 a new batch of chicks arrived and we made plans to incorporate them with the Polish princesses. Pearl, however, would have to move back into the big house to make room. The brooder house and converted dog house were becoming pretty congested. After much squawking and flurry of feathers, I captured her and carted her away. After a week, I noticed she looked sickly. Her comb was pale and floppy and she was lethargic, avoiding the other chickens and refusing to eat. She looked to be at death’s door. So, I gathered her up and took her back to the brooder house. She sat by the water bowl drinking sips of water for over an hour. Then she began to perk up. By the next day she was eating again. After a couple more days, Pearl was back to normal, leaping over the fence and commencing her travels.
This latest batch of pullets (2015) was maturing rapidly and beginning to lay. The one in the upper right corner of this photo was in a class all by himself, however. It didn’t take too much longer to realize we had a rooster in our midst. In fact, we had two roosters! The larger, more elegant of the two we named Cromwell, and the smaller one, Clarence who had no personality and picked on everyone. He had to go. When it came time for the pullets to move to the big house Cromwell had to stay behind. Phyllis, one of the little Polish hens had died over the spring from who knows what, so only Miss Marilyn remained. I was worried how she and Pearl would fit into the larger group, but it was ridiculous to maintain separate winter quarters with heating lamps, heated water bowls etc.for two hens, a rooster and then all the others. I felt confident Pearl would be happy to leave Cromwell behind, as he was becoming aggressive and she made it clear she did not like him. Or so I thought.
The latest move was somewhat of a success. Miss Marilyn is doing nicely in the big house with all the others and has not been picked on. She chooses not to hop up onto the roost to sleep with the others, but perches on an ancient wooden box below the roost that was originally designed to hold oyster shell. And Pearl? Pearl went home once more into the clutches of Cromwell. Two weeks have passed and I am still waiting for her to scratch the joint and head back to the big house. Only Pearl knows what comes next.