Penny came from a large flock of hens that lived in a weathered and smelly henhouse that was four generations old. Farmer Kris was downsizing. The hens all looked similar, but some had more feathers than others. Some were molting and looked awful. Molting is normal, but I hoped to score a bird with no bald spots.
A sea of golden sex link (why the weird name?) hens swarmed forward when Farmer Kris opened the henhouse door. I crouched down and waited for a volunteer to step up. I missed the first hen, but nabbed Penny on the next try. Mr. Raven said he was proud of me; not in a you should see my wife catch a chicken kind of way, but in a I’m glad it didn’t take all day kind of way. It was a lucky catch; a good hen, no bald spots.
She rode home in a cat carrier, panting, stretched out on the cool, clean plastic floor. It was probably the first time she’d ever been alone. I thought she semed relieved to be out of the hubbub.
Her new home is cleaner and less crowded. There’s more fresh air and sunshine. Food is abundant here. Penny tasted grass for the first time and spinach and yogurt and mealworms. She drank a lot of water.
The hard part for Penny is getting used to these two thugs. They are not amused.
Wilma, the biddy on the right, is head honcho. And she’s a pecker. She always wants what Betty has, even when they both have the same thing. She pecks Betty, Betty goes to the other dish, Wilma pecks her away, Betty goes back to dish one and here comes Wilma… They go back and forth like that until it’s all gone.
Wilma hasn’t laid a pretty green egg in months; not since she was ill. But she’s my best holdin’ hen. She’s a heat seeker and she loves to be held. I can carry her anywhere. Wilma falls asleep in my arms.
Betty is a sweet, soft-spoken girl and a good layer, but she’d rather not cuddle. I thought a third hen would take some of the pressure off Betty. She’s not on the bottom of the pecking order anymore. I was surprised to see her puff up like a big assed turkey and growl at her new little sister. She pecks at Penny, but she doesn’t hang on like Wilma does.
You’re supposed to isolate a new bird. Penny had her own little area, but she was stressed at dusk, all by her lonesome. She wanted up on the perch with the big hens, so I let her in the coop. Betty and Wilma growled and puffed and tried to peck Penny, but they didn’t get off their perches.
Penny lays a brown, unspeckled egg every day. She’s very timid, hiding from her wicked step-sisters who block the exits and guard the waters. She sleeps on her own perch, across from the big girls. She hides in the henhouse. I realized I’d made a mistake. I should’ve gotten two new hens. Penny needed someone her own size.
It was a different scene the second time I visite Farmer Kris. He opened the henhouse door and no swarm came to greet us. There were fewer hens and they had retreated into the depths where I was not willing to trod.
Farmer Kris explained as he poured food in a wooden trough, “I had to catch six of them yesterday. They’re onto us.”
I crouched and Farmer Kris stooped and Mr. Raven waited patiently with the cat crate, but the cowards stayed back. It was hot and stanky and nobody wanted it to take all day. When a hen finally wandered close to him, Farmer Kris nabbed it. Into the crate she went, without inspection.
I was dismayed once I examined her at home. Her top parts looked okay, her tail looks grand, but her behind is bare chicken skin and under one wing there was an open sore the size of a half dollar.
“You can take her back,” sighed Mr. Raven.
“No, that’s okay. She needs attention. I’ll take care of her.”
Chickens will pick on a bloody sore. That’s why they used to make rose colored glasses for chickens, so they can’t see the blood. Really! But I have no rose colored chicken glasses.
I gave her a bath, dabbed the wound clean and covered it with antibiotic ointment. The wound looks much better today.
Now Penny has a friend her size and the two littles are getting along well.
The new hen hasn’t told me her name yet. I called her Fanny at first, cuz her butt was showing.
So, now there are four and there will be no more.
This time I really mean it.