‘I’m not sure I like this new outfit!’
Finally, after 6 months, Nicky has gotten her feathers! It’s taken a while for her to get used to them; she preferred being naked, and pulled and tugged, causing blood to drip down her skin. Considering she has likely to have spent first first two years of her life naked, it is an understandable reaction.
Nicky joined my flock, her retirement home having been a egg-laying barn hen, last August. She was in a state, and never allowed at the feeder, having to fight for every mouthful. For the first couple of weeks, I fed her separately, and then, having gained some strength, she developed her own method and ran between the feeders, extending her telescopic neck and grabbing a morsel before running away.
Look carefully, and you can see her bare back-end at the top of the photo!
Inside a barn with thousands of other hens, all of which were bigger than her, her feathers were nothing more than a hindrance and provided the other hens with a means of holding her down. In order to escape the pecking, she would run. In the process, the feathers would be plucked free of her body.This would have happened over and over again. As a result, they stopped growing – a sensible solution.
It’s taken a while for her brain to realise she is in a new environment. She is a tough little bird. Even on the coldest, wettest of winter days, she would take a walk, unconcerned by the challenging weather reaching her skin. Feathers were for the weak! She did not like them, and even as they started to grow, plucked them free, leaving the downy feathers in piles under the bushes.
Did she like to be different? Did she not like her new outfit? Was it itchy? I really don’t know what her problem was, but regardless, she plucked them out causing blood to drip down her body. But they grew and grew. There was no getting away from the fact she was going through a change.
It has been a confusing time. She hides in the dense shrubbery, staying away from the others and puzzled by her pretty, feathery appearance. She won’t let us pick her up, something she has previously allowed. And what’s even more strange, at least to her, is that she has equal place at the feeder. For days, she would stand on the outskirts, waiting to be bullied. It never happened and it made no sense. Her world had changed.
Finally, Nicky is one of the flock. She is accepted. She is a proper little hen. Her next challenge is the rise through the rankings.