Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Bare Bottom

Fluffy Bottom = Happy Hen
Ever since we lost Lady Gaga, our Polish hen, to a mysterious predator this winter, we've kept our girls cooped up. For the dozen in our flock, they have generous accommodations (160 square feet of living space), so free ranging isn't really necessary.

However, we do feel bad for the ladies, as they are accustomed to having the freedom to hoover up worms, grubs, and other scraps around the yard, and poultry hobbyists will attest to the superior flavor of fresh eggs coming from hens that are allowed to free range.

The Problem: Bored Hens = Plucked Bottom
Things have gotten a bit dicey as a result of our decision to keep them contained for their own safety. Victoria, an otherwise beautiful Black Copper Maran, is displaying one of the fallouts of hens not being allowed to free range. They get bored, and when they do... this is what happens: (See below.)

So, we've hung cabbage balls to give the girls something to occupy them, and that has helped, but we had to take things up a notch when we observed poor Victoria's freshly plucked bottom the other day.

Leaning on more seasoned experts' advice, we learned that adding vinegar to their water might help, and covering their bottoms with talcum powder (or blu-kote or iodine) will disguise the redness of their skin and discourage pecking, allowing time for those feathers to grow back in.

The Solution: Shake, shake, shake!
Brie to the rescue.
We'll be checking our girls daily to see who the culprits are, though despite Brie's best efforts to lecture them on good behavior, a chicken will be a chicken, and so pecking will continue. Free ranging can only be done under a watchful eye, so we'll make time in our afternoons for a bit of "chick sitting" while the girls roam around the yard for a while.

Spring can't get here soon enough, though. That's when free ranging gets a bit easier, when we can sit outside and enjoy our flock in the warmer evenings.