Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘pecking order

Kitty Homed

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The result is in. Despite breaking Cyndie’s heart in handing off our little surprise visitor last week, the sweet kitty that peeked in our back door is now happily placed in a new home.

None of our neighbors reported missing a pet and our trusted pet-sitter, Anna, just happened to be looking for a kitty to fulfill the request of a friend. It was a match that fit seamlessly for all parties concerned.

One reply we received from a neighbor gave us pause. She texted, “Is this the first pet you’ve had abandoned on your property?”

We’ve been here eight years now, and this was a first. Her question implies it is something that happens with some regularity in the country. We are happy to have been spared this harsh reality of human behavior thus far.

Our attention is back on fifteen chickens who are busy learning how to deal with the increasingly wintery weather, as well as their own pecking order. We feel lucky to have avoided any real violence from the aggressors, but they do assert their dominance as anticipated. Happily, the young ones are not looking defeated by it in the least. They continue to ever so slowly expand their comfort zone of free-ranging our land.

In this time of the exploding COVID-19 cases, take advantage of the healthy excuse to stay home and hug your pets.

Except for free-ranging chickens. They aren’t so fond of that hugging thing.

Just throw them some scratch or mealworms and they’ll feel truly loved.



Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2020 at 10:49 am

Even Higher

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Always pushing the envelope, those chickens. On Monday, when Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, she found one of the Light Brahmas had figured out a way to get even higher than the 2×4 ledge above the window. Somehow, she got on top of the netted fencing that we installed to separate the adult hens from the chicks.

She wedged herself up against the quarter-inch hardware cloth that serves as the coop ceiling and was positioned such that she looked down upon the three adult hens roosting beneath her.

The tenacity of chickens to violate every installation put in place to contain them reminds me a little of our horses. Every time I installed something I didn’t think they would mess with, the horses would prove me wrong.

When Cyndie spotted that trapeze artist, she was on a phone call, so she left the bird up there until she could get me to assist with addressing the situation.

With darkness fully upon us, we donned headlamps and barged in on the sanctity of nighttime roosting. After rudely relocating the Brahma, Cyndie asked for twist-ties to stitch that area of fencing tightly to the hardware cloth ceiling to prevent subsequent attempts.

When I shut the coop last night, there was no sign that any of them had tried to mess with that solution. Three pullets were up on the cross-beam framing the window and the rest were spread across the two roost branches spanning the coop.

Maybe they were all tired of working to establish a pecking order. When I had visited them earlier yesterday afternoon, that’s all they appeared to be doing. Skirmish after skirmish between an ever-changing combination of pairs played out with shoving, chasing, posturing, glaring, beak-to-beak staring, and occasionally a rare attempt to peck.

There were no “She started it!” statements possible because all of them were guilty.

I saw it with my own eyes.

I’m thinking maybe the balmy gusting south wind had them riled up a bit. As if they need an excuse.



Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Eleven Days

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Check out this video clip from yesterday and see if you can detect the change of a few days’ growth:


In the background of the audio of that clip, you can hear one of the three remaining adult hens making a racket, probably announcing she laid an egg or seeking to reconnect with the other two after having just done so.

The one Barnevelder chick who was lagging in growth has been receiving special support from Cyndie in hopes of boosting it over the hump of disadvantage it would otherwise face. Simply providing extra hydration quickly results in more energy and more interest in eating. We are happy whenever we see evidence the little one chooses to eat on her own or pushes back at others as often as they push her away.

As long as she keeps improving, we’ll keep giving her support to help her along.

When she settles down to nap, which they still all do with relative frequency, others snuggle up with her nicely until some doofus walks all over everyone and wakes the whole bunch. I snapped the photo above because they were all laying together with heads down, but just my motion to move in for the snapshot caused them to pick up their heads again.

They are doing a lot more flapping of wings and jumping up on things.

I’m almost ready to stop calling them chicks.

They’re becoming little “henlets.”



Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

Mist, Continued

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I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to add to yesterday’s narration, but a couple humorous tidbits that Cyndie shared last night continue the themes.

I carefully (slowly) made my way to the interstate in the morning and didn’t have any problems driving the rest of the way. I texted Cyndie when I got to work, letting her know travel was possible, as she needed to drive through the cities, as well.

In the afternoon, she was miles ahead of me on the way home, and she sounded the alert that road conditions of the last few miles were still bad. She couldn’t even make it up the driveway. Her car just slid sideways on the slope by the shop garage.

She parked by the barn and precariously made her way up to the house to get driveway salt to scatter.

My car rolled right up that slope without slipping. I’m just sayin’.

I’m ready for a change of weather. Unfortunately, the forecast is all about a polar vortex of Arctic cold headed our way next. Snow seems to be a slim probability.

Later in the evening, after Cyndie returned from closing the coop, she had this to report: As usual, there was a hen squeezed onto the 2×4 over the side window, but this time, it was one of the Australorps. That top perch is usually claimed by one of the Wyandottes.

Cyndie said there was a lone Wyandotte on the near roost gesticulating obvious dissatisfaction with the arrangement.

It’s not just the horses who are wrangling over who’s highest in the pecking order around here.



Pecking Order

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Oh, yes, there is a pecking order among the chickens. The horses, too, for that matter, although there isn’t so much pecking involved with those three. It’s more like a big bite.

Lately, Cyndie has noticed that Hunter is taking issue with Dezirea. The other day he kicked in her direction with both legs to make his point.

I got frustrated with the horses’ antics a few days ago while doing the regular “housekeeping” under the overhang, so I established a horse-free zone until I was finished. I pinned my ears back, figuratively, and ushered them all out with big energy.

There is no question about their understanding. After a few tries to return, which were met with my same high energy message, they resorted to pacing along the imaginary boundary I had established. Several times, when I turned to deposit a scoopful into the wheelbarrow, Hunter checked to see if the order was still in effect, by trying to step in behind me.

I simply turned back from my task to assure him I wasn’t done yet and the area was still closed to them.

After Cayenne’s little nip on my shoulder last week, they have been receiving fresh messages from me that I am above them in the pecking order around here, and demanding the respect that a herd leader deserves.

Yesterday afternoon, I puttered in the compost area with the chickens, moving piles around to create new space. Two chickens, in particular, a yellow Buff Orpington and black Australorp, appeared to be in some sort of contest to outdo each other to see who could eat the most of whatever the disturbed piles revealed.

It’s fascinating to watch the chickens work, actually. They have a very keen eye for the movement of crawling and wiggling creatures. When I slide the pitchfork into a pile and lift out a scoop, there can be quite a few worms or centipedes uncovered and the chickens pursue them with gusto.

At first, the birds are jumpy about my activity and they flinch and startle over my movements, but with each successive rotation of my coming in with the fork or scoop, and then pulling out to turn and dump it in a different spot, they show more confidence.

This allows them to remain close –I would even call it, in the way– so that they are in prime position to make the most of the easy pickings when my fork suddenly uncovers many different delicacies all at once.

I actually adjusted my task to accommodate them, splitting my attention between two piles to give the chickens full access to one whenever so many birds showed up at once to feast that I couldn’t dig around them.

I saw that same Buff Orpington and an Australorp pair get into a wrestling match over one morsel. Eventually, I noticed the Wyandottes get picked on and chased away by both other breeds. They seem to be the lowest in the pecking order.

This adds intrigue to the fact that one Wyandotte often chooses to perch on the tiny space of a cross stud against the wall above the window in the coop at night.

That spot is well above all the rest of the hens on the roost. Maybe she is making a statement to all the others by  spending the night alone up there.