Since then she’s become a scaredy-chook, scuttling away from me and her five run-mates. So if you think she looks a little solitary, you’re right about that too.
It’s hard to blame her. Several of the others (not moulting yet) seem to sense that as she’s grounded, she’s vulnerable and therefore fair game. My White Leghorn, just visible at the top of the photo, is usually at the bottom of the pecking order but has been taking this opportunity to lord it over Amelia.
The hierarchy in our chicken run is intriguing. It doesn’t go in a single straight line from top to bottom. Instead it features a complex network of relationships and alliances. It also changes — it almost has a life of its own.
Amelia has coasted along since she was a pullet two years ago. She doesn’t regularly pick on others, and has remained largely unmolested herself. But as a chick she went through a bad patch: the last to develop her adult plumage, she suffered severe pecking, particularly from a run-mate who was a rooster in the making (and who soon went west as a result).
|Amelia on the outer, the first time (2010).|
Now she’s big enough to look after herself, though I’ll admit that her latest demotion has prompted me to supervise some mealtimes, to ensure she gets enough to eat. Moulting is a stressful time for chooks and producing a whole new covering of feathers is energy intensive, requiring a plentiful intake of protein.
I predict Amelia won’t be shunned for much longer. My Light Sussex hen has joined in the moult, shedding her white feathers so swiftly that the ground looks as if it’s had an unseasonal snowfall — and she appears half plucked. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the flock follows suit.