Poor Ursula. In the chicken world, the victim gets solitary. Business as usual for the UNSUB.
This is completely unscientific, but I think mean girl-ing is hardwired. Put any pack of females together; teenage girls, elementary schoolers, mothers, corporate executives and/or farm animals and before long someone gets hurt. At least their feelings.
Cows and pigs can be rough, but chickens! Chickens take mean to a whole new level. Given their T-rex ancestry, we should all be grateful that chickens have downsized over the eons.
Lots of people love their pet chickens. They buy them diapers, saddles, treats and Victorian mansions. Me? I have never been a lover of handling birds. I find them unpleasantly frantic, sharp and creepy.
Not really my kind of pet, which is one reason I was slow to bring chickens to the farm. But, what kind of old-fashioned farmstead has no chickens?
So, I started a small flock and found that they were not without their charms. It’s cute when they come running for treats. Their line-dance strut across the pastures is entertaining. And if you’ve never seen a chicken run, it will crack you up. Plus, chickens do important work in the parasite control and soil rejuvenation department.
Chicken vocabulary is mostly charming, with contented coos, treat-sharing chuckles and cock-a-doodle-dooing. Did you know that roosters don’t just crow at dawn? All day I tell you. ALL DAY. And roosters attack people. People who walk with canes. Like my mom. Not so endearing.
When the eggs started those chickens really started to grow on me. So I got more. Fifty White Rock chicks. White Rocks are an early 1900’s dual purpose chicken that was a major commercial breed of that time. They are good layers of brown eggs during all seasons, are hardy and cold resistant and the males are heavy enough to be good broilers too.
Ursula in her early vulture phase
My chicks came from Murray McMurray hatchery, who
kindly? included a free exotic breed bird with the order. Hel-lo Ursula.
So here we are with fifty identical white birds doing their thing, and ugly duckling Ursula. But Ursula didn’t mind, she’s a confident girl. She tells me I’ve got it backwards. It’s she who’s the beauty – those pale look-a-likes are a dime a dozen. And, being so sure of herself and a little bigger than the others, Ursula moved right to the front of the feeder.
crowding to score prime real estate – Ursula ranks a coveted spot. Check out her neighbor – suspect? Not so confident about picking her from a lineup…
She must have known something because as the days went on, Ursula began developing an especially pretty coat. Her feathers have taken on a deep, green-black iridescence punctuated by bright white crescents. And her neck feathers are long and flapper-like, herringbone and gleaming. Ursula isn’t looking like a vulture chick anymore. In fact, Ursula is downright pretty.
A couple of days ago, I noticed Ursula seemed a little deplumed. And sure enough, her long, pretty tail feathers are gone. Plucked out, with puffy pants intact, Ursula’s rump is a raw, bloody mess. Clearly I showed up just in time – it’s just a surface wound and will heal quickly. Those fancy feathers will grow back soon enough.
Not my best, but you get the picture. Raw, bloody, defeathered. Mean, mean, mean.
So now, a little solitary confinement is in order for Ursula. Why punish the victim? Because chickens are natural-born killers, that’s why. They’ll peck a wounded Ursula to death once they smell blood. Being pecked to death is the largest cause of death among cage-free factory farmed chickens. That’s what mean girls do.
Does bringing Ursula down make them feel better? Exciting in the moment, it won’t be long before the guilt creeps in. But I doubt those mean girls will admit it.
Not to worry, Ursula and I are getting to be good friends. I’m making it up to her, but she’s still not so sure about being an only chicken. Mean or no, those white girls are the closest thing she’s got to family.