The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Bullying in our flock of chickens and guinea fowl

Photo: Hope and Beatyl Boss
Photo: Hope and Beatyl Boss

Now that the mornings and evenings are brighter, I’m spending more time watching our flock. I’ve discovered that there are problems. Our youngest additions to the flock are being bullied.

“Poor Beatyl and Hope are being terrorised by Thunder and Carol.”
Danny put down his toast.
“It’s Cloud too. She can be a real bitch. We could cull Thunder. He’d be tasty.”
“But guinea fowl mate for life. Cloud would be devastated.”
“We could eat her too.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“The guineas are vicious we need to move them. I want to keep them but they are frightening and must terrify something a fiftieth of my size!”

I’d rather build a new run for the guinea fowl. I love them. I just don’t like them hurting the rest of our stock. Ages ago S pointed out an area of our garden where we could set up a new run.
“It’s perfect and out of the way.”
But it has no sun. All living things need sun and fresh water everyday in my book. Sun nurtures and our flock sunbathe in the summer. Lolling on the roof of the Day Centre, legs stretched out and heads resting on the warm roof. It’s the only time that I ever see them totally relax. They are completely floppy like rag dolls.

Beatyl (golden Sebright cockerel) and Hope (bantam Wyandotte) are at the bottom of the pecking order so the bullying is not a surprise. But we are seriously thinking of building a new run and splitting up the flock as I hate the bullying. I’ve set up more feeding stations and drinking fountains so that the little ones have a chance to eat and drink without being tormented.

I’m also going to try the cabbage trick as I’ve found that it’s worked in the past. If you hang a cabbage in the run it’s a tasty distraction. I’m also on the lookout for a cheap football. Apparently this can amuse chickens, not by sorting themselves into two teams and competing for a Chicken World Cup but rather trying to stay aboard this new rotating world.

There are plenty of places where the youngsters can hide. They have become very flight of foot and, being smaller than their large tormentors, can turn on a feather and vanish. They spend most of their time hanging out together and sometimes with Mrs Boss. She’s cool yet gentle with them. Perhaps she’s just basking in the fact that they have taken her place and for the first time in five years she is not bottom of the pecking order.

As my mum says.
“I like Mrs Boss. But she’s such a grubby little hen.”
Yes. But she has much more grit and character than Mrs Squeaky. She is the hen that has raised guinea fowl, runner ducks and bantams. She is a cottage treasure and the sort of spirit that would fight for freedom if the chips were down. She has also taught me how to deal with a persistently broody hen that you don’t want to be broody.

Beatyl may be sweet on Mrs Squeaky but she doesn’t reciprocate any possibility of romance with such a cheeky whippersnapper and rushes away on her feathered feet when he tries to court her. Meanwhile Hope observes from a distance. She’s Beatyl’s best friend and I reckon that she’d like to progress the relationship a bit further. Perhaps when she’s a bit older she’ll exude the right pheromones. Until then they will remain just partners in arms.

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  1. Pamela

    Veronica, I didn’t know cat collars are elasticated. I’ll have to update my policy on cat collars as that does make a difference! Our cat didn’t have a cat flap so no need for a collar and he didn’t spend much time outside. He was a bit of a couch potato, albeit a very beautiful couch potato. He stayed mainly in the back garden and if he occasionally strayed round the front the neighbours would ring if they spotted him knowing we were at home if he was out.

  2. Catalina

    I love the names of your birds!
    So cute!
    Good lick with the bullying, it’s hard to watch a favorite hen get picked on.

  3. Veronica

    Yes, Pamela, I’d never put a collar on a cat just for the sake of it, but the magnetic catflap has made all our lives more peaceful! Minou is a large, strong cat, and of course his collar is elasticated and not too tight. So he can easily pull his head out of it if he needs to, as he has proved on several occasions (cue plaintive meows at the door when he couldn’t get back in!).

  4. Pamela

    Veronica, I don’t think I like the idea of any cats in collars even if they do have useful things hanging from them. I couldn’t bear the thought of a cat hanging from a collar after getting caught up while out on a mission. I’m ok about dogs with collars though, vicars are welcome to them too! Obviously I’m slightly inconsistent on the whole collar idea!

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