Friday, 29 January 2010

A Difficult Job For The Boss

Its tough being top hen. The responsibility falls to you to align the pecking order, and keep everyone in check. When a member of your flock goes off to that great chicken coop in the sky, there is re-ordering to be done. If there was a cockerel about, he would do a lot of this work for you. However, the Convent is a chicken-bloke free zone, so all of this falls to Mabel.

Mabel is a brilliant top hen. She has just the right balance between benign care of her charges, and aggressive discipline. The others (perhaps with the exception of the social climbing Maeve) seem to respect her position, and heed her warnings. It would be over sentimental to say that the hens are missing Mini, but they are definitely aware that the position of bottom hen is now vacant. Everyone is keen for this place not to be filled by themselves.

So, today, there is a lot of pecking going on. The lower hens are sneaking up on each other and attempting to deliver a swift dig to the top of their opponents head. If the opponent wants to keep their position in the flock, they won't back down. A surprise attack often results in a surprised squawking and waddling away in to the shrubbery, though, and instantly the victim finds herself below her attacker in the social structure.

This process of re-jigging is always stressful for both the birds and anxious keeper. This squabbling can quickly escalate in to all out warfare, so I am very glad that Mabel is taking charge. Everyone but Maude is being squashed to the floor, as she asserts her dominance. No one is hurt in this display, but the squashed hen always looks a little sheepish afterwards.

The silkies pose a problem to Mabel. As the last members of the flock to be integrated, they are the most logical choice for the bottom two. They don't appear to hold ambitions of flock domination themselves, so should be easy targets. The problem is, they have long, road-runner-style legs, and can out run even a flat out pekin waddle. Mabel can't catch them. On the odd occassion that she does, she can't jump up on to their backs. They simply stand still, with their head to one side, and watch the demented ball of feathers bouncing next to them. This makes Mabel look ridiculous, but is hilarious to watch.

Mabel has apparently been working on this issue. This morning, while watching the girls in the garden, I noticed that she was stood on the rim of a large plant pot. Her stillness was odd, so it caught my attention. The others mooched around, plotting head pecking and looking nonchalent. As Margot ambled closer to Mabel's plant pot, Mabel assumed a take off position. Clever girl, thought I, as Mabel launched herself at the now-in-range Margot. With a startled 'Bok-ARK!', Margot was flattened. Mabel pinned her for a few seconds, and then dismounted her underling. She strolled off with a satisfied swagger, with the other hens as an audience. Kiki approached her stunned sister, still splatted in to the mud. Margot shook herself and stood up, and the two silkies began a low chuntering, no doubt discussing this new development.

Mabel reigns supreme.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! It is so funny and who knew chickens could be so interested. I never knew so much went on in a coop! Keep it up it's great. Nikki x