Two new hens joined the Homestead recently, Roxanne, a little California White, and Marshmallow, a huge Delaware. When friends with too many chickens offered two egg-laying hens, I couldn’t say no. My hens hadn’t laid an egg in months, thanks to a particularly long molt. This, I told my flock, is what they get for taking so many months off. It’s embarrassing to have to buy eggs when the whole backyard is run by chickens.
I had locked up the white hens in the fancy new coop for a few days, to give the birds a chance to become accustomed to each other without any pecking. I thought the red hens would come over and investigate, but they just eyed the new coop and its new residents with suspicion, from a distance.
When I let the white chickens out of the coop a few days later, nothing really happened. The two gangs of chickens didn’t mix, but I did notice an interesting dynamic. If I set out a treat, say bits of vegetable peelings or a meat bone, the red chickens would run towards it with their usual enthusiasm, but when the white chickens approached, they would wander off casually, as if they had changed their minds about the snack.
Then I had this conversation with the white birds original owners.
“How are the chickens?”, they asked.
“Good,” I said, “but my birds seem a little afraid of the big Delaware.”
“Oh, yeah,” they said enthusiastically. ”She’s a mean chicken.”
I kind of feel sorry for Marshmallow, with her poor social skills. She’s the Odd Chicken Out. Roxanne doesn’t elicit much of a response from the red chickens, one way or another, and she can blend in with them when she wants too, but they shy away from Marshmallow. She has power, but no flock.
Most days, I find the red chickens under the deck, their traditional winter meeting place, and the white chickens dust bathing in the garden or scratching around in the straw. That’s fine with me, as long as the chicken gangs don’t start a rumble. The yard is still peaceful and, most important to me as the Egg Thief, I don’t have to go to the grocery store.
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