When I brought my baby chickens and turkeys home this past April 22nd, they were cheeping little fuzz balls that easily all fit in a small cardboard box. Twenty seven of the chickens were brown fuzz balls, but one was yellow and black. I knew the brown ones were Rhode Island Reds - which is what I had ordered, but I had no idea what the other one would become. (I was hopeful that the little stranger would prove to be a hen, and it would have been fine by me if he or she turned out to be a Plymouth Rock, another good egg layer.
Now, more than two months on, the young hens have nearly achieved their full adult size. The brown ones are, as requested, Rhode Island Reds. They will begin laying big brown eggs this September. And the other baby, the black and yellow one, has matured into a beautiful all-black hen.
I began to notice a couple of weeks ago that the black hen was more standoffish than the brown ones. When I went out twice a day to feed and water the poultry, she would remain in hiding while most of the others came up and tried to be the first ones at the feeders. (Actually, the turkeys are always first. There is nothing standoffish about them!)
I attend to the poultry early in the morning and around five in the afternoon. Then, just before dark, I always walk out to the coop and pen and have some quality time by pulling up fistfuls of clover from the yard and throwing it into the pen. They love clover, and pandemonium prevails until all of the sweet clover has been consumed. The turkeys push their way to the front of the crowd, and most of the chickens join in the fray.
I began to notice, however, that the black hen never ventured into the commotion. In fact, she stayed out in the tall weeds, basically invisible. I had decided that for reasons unknown, at least to me, the young lady did not care for me. Yesterday, however, I learned the truth - and I was very dismayed.
I was working on a chore out at the barn, a job that caused me to walk by the chicken coop and pen many times over the course of the afternoon. Taking a break, I stood next to the pen and watched the chickens eating from one of the feeders. A brown rooster and a couple of hens were having a mid-afternoon snack when the black hen suddenly ventured from the weeds and approached the feeder. She was immediately put upon by the rooster who ran her away from the feeder. The brown hens also threw up a fuss to keep her away. Later the black hen tried again, and she was again routed.
Now, after some more serious observation, I have come to the sad conclusion that the little hen is being ostracized by the other chickens. She appears to be a friendless loner. Do animals discriminate against those who are different? Do humans come to racial discrimination naturally? Is it something in our genes and good people must recognize and work to overcome?
And what do I do about this victim of bullying? Do I try to find her another home, or work to empower her among the brown majority?
Who knew there could be so much drama in the chicken coop?