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And Now There Are Four……..

21 June 2011

I’ve been engaged in what they call “flock management”. Flock management is one of the responsibilities of having a flock of chickens. It sometimes requires making a difficult decision. The decision of having to “cull” one of my hens has taken over a year for me to make. What a heartless sounding word “cull” is. In poultry, or in any animal management, it means “to pick out for rejection for not meeting the standard or to remove for specific reasons”. In poultry speak, cull can also mean “to wring their necks, cut their throats, chop off their heads, or in some other way, dispense of the offender”. Thank goodness, it can also mean to “find them another place to live, or, to rehome”.

Taylor Newton with Petunia

I finally made the decision to “cull” Petunia. Over the past year, this beautiful Golden-laced Wyandotte, became more and more of a “bully”. She had always picked on Rosie, making her life quite miserable toward the end. Sweetpea and Daisy were her other targets but she focusd on Tulip when she was recently sick, until I intervened. I never once saw her attack the silver-laced Wyandotte, Poppy, the matriarch and “no-nonsense” memeber of the group. The final straw was her treatment of Daisy when she was broody. Every time I took Daisy from the nest to try to get her to eat and drink, Petunia would chase her around the run until she went back in.

I removed Petunia from the run and kept her in the garden shed in a dog crate for a week before finding her a home. She was as sweet as sugar during her confinement, gently chorkeling to me, and to Tulip in the next cage, as I went about my gardening. I tried to return her several times to the coop but I could see that I didn’t have the tolerance for the frantic squacking and chaotic disorder that Petunia created. She needed a larger space and what I think of as “rooster leadership”. Yes, roosters do keep peace among hens, but there is an ordinance against roosters in Cambria, so we are doomed here, to have quiet, but confused, flocks.

It was not easy finding a home for Petunia. Many people, I found, did not want to introduce an “ill-tempered” hen into their established flock. I can hardly blame them. Then, along came Taylor Newton, owner of Newton Cultivation in Morro Bay; rescuer of all things living and willing to give a “mean girl” a chance. His rescued roosters far outnumber his hens. But Petunia’s a tough little beauty. I think she will do all right.

I’ve been sad for a few days now. The act of giving up has taken its toll. But my garden is a more peaceful place. The hens seem settled and content for the first time in a long time. As I handed Petunia over to Taylor Newton, I assured myself that  Petunia is getting a chance to be a real chicken, not a pampered pet perhaps, but a real chicken. I wish her well.




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7 Comments to “And Now There Are Four……..”

  1. I hope she does well and is calmer in a new home! Please blog any updates you have on her. She is such a beautiful girl!

  2. I know how hard this decision was for you. But you’re giving Petunia a second chance. I know from having caged birds as well (mine are out of their cages 90% of the day) that deciding to give one away can make one feel somewhat of a failure. Taking on a living being is a responsibility but making sure they are as happy as possible is also part of responsibility.
    Will you get a couple more pullets next Spring to manage a split flock (insuring egg laying through the next few years)?
    We’re building a new coop/hen house this summer and hopefully I can add 2 more girls to the flock next Spring.
    Feathered hugs coming your way from me and all my Girls!!

  3. Thanks, Gail. I’d love to add a couple of pullets or chicks to my flock but will probably wait until “there are three”. The little henhouse was built to accommodate 3-5 hens. That is about the limit without expanding. It’s a good idea to stagger the ages so you continue getting eggs but I dread adding new members to the flock. For now, I’m enjoying the peace. Perhaps a little boring to watch on camera but they are a pleasant group to be around and perfect for now. Thanks for thinking of me!

  4. sweet Petunia, as a hen at Newton Cultivation, she is 1 of 2 that aren’t for sale. Petunia thought she was tough and mean, but then she found that these boyz she is now living with don’t stop giving her “attention” no matter how hard she bites. she still does not give up without a fight, but she is far too busy watching her back to pick on anybody. she now spends most of her time roosting and napping in the sun. we shall see soon enough what kind of hybrid offspring she generates.

  5. Oh, I know how you feel! I just had to make a tough decision on my own back yard flock. It has been 5 weeks now, and I keep asking myself what I did wrong. But the answer is this, I did nothing wrong, my Daisy was just a bully! Plain and simple. She lives on a farm now, with many other chickens and is very happy. I am still with a broken heart but know I did the best for my other chickens and for her. She will always be a part of me. I am just waiting for the day it doesn’t hurt so much!

  6. […] I had trouble with both of my Wyandotte girls. The golden Wyandotte was “mean girl” (story here) and I had to rehome her, and Poppy was a “wild child” (see story) and I had to separate […]

  7. […] I had trouble with both of my Wyandotte girls. The golden Wyandotte was “mean girl” (story here) and I had to rehome her, and Poppy was a “wild child” (see story) and I had to separate […]

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