Purdy has been crouching for a few days now, so I knew that she was reaching chicken adulthood. The other hens seem to know instinctively when one of their number is about to come in to lay, and it always stirs things up a bit.
The girls spent the day mooching about the garden, commiting petty acts of planticide and eating things. Mabel, Maude, and Margot laid their eggs with nary an egg anouncement between them. All was peaceful and calm. At school pick up time, I enticed them all back in to the Palace's run with grapes, locked them in and thought no more about it.
While cooking dinner several hours later, I noticed only four hens in the run. Mabel, Maude, Doris and Margot were all sunbathing. I knew that Kiki was busy being broody, which left the chooklets and Maeve. Uh oh. Opening the coop door, I found Celia and Purdy cowering in the corner. Maeve was strutting between the two, administering sharp head pecks as and when she saw fit, looking very much like a sadistic Hollywood SS officer. Shooing her away, I moved the traumatised youngsters to a perch where they could easily escape, and went back inside to make the gravy.
Five minutes later, the run was still devoid of any chooklets. I had expected the young pullets to leg it for freedom as soon as possible, so I suspected that ASBO chicken had somehow recaptured her hostages. I found Purdy huddled beneath the perch, gasping, with a seriously pecked comb. Celia was sat nearby, not injured but staying close to her ally. Maeve eyeballed me triumphantly.
Grabbing the shocked Purdy, I wrapped her in an old teatowel and sponged off the worst of the blood. The injury wasn't as bad as I'd feared, but was still serious enough to require some antiseptic. As my eldest wandered past, I shoved the teatowel cocooned chooklet at him and went hunting through the garage for the gentian violet. It took a few minutes to locate, and all the while the children spoke softly to the little chicken, trying to keep her calm. Her stillness and quietness was rather worrying. In fact, Purdy seemed to be in a traumatised trance.
I gently dabbed the gentian violet all over her comb. Gentian violet never goes exactly where you want it to, though, so now the unfortunate chook has a purple comb, beak, face and one wattle has a distinctly violet tinge. Once I had finished my chook first aid, I told the eldest to put her down. As he lowered her to the floor and gently unwrapped her from the teatowel, he said something which sounded like 'Oh, her leg just fell off'. That brought me up short, I can tell you. Observing the shakey progress Purdy was making across the patio, for a split second I seriously considered that this might be the case. It was only when the youngest held up a tiny, brown, perfect egg that I twigged. Unfortunately, the egg shell was badly cracked from its fall to the concrete, but other than that it was a very impressive first attempt. Suddenly, the sudden attack made sense.
Purdy hadn't run from Maeve's mindless violence because she had needed to lay. In fact, she was probably sitting to lay where I found her being pecked. Celia must have been keeping her company. I watched the young hen for about thirty minutes, looking for signs of shock. The other hens took it in turns to charge at her, and she managed to stay one step ahead. At the time of writing this, a good two and a half hours after all the drama, things seem to have settled down. Purdy has eaten and drank, preened and pooed. Her teenage goth phase may last some considerable time though, because gentian violet is a pig to get off.
I threw the teatowel away.