The Saga of Puff

This is the sad sad tale of what can happen when a person gets too emotionally attached to a chicken. The chicken in this case is Puff, this little Black Australorp pullet I hatched in July. The person is me.

Puff is almost 17 weeks old. She's been living alone in her dog kennel home for a few weeks now, ever since her brother 3 Spot went to a farm where he can crow his little head off every morning without disturbing any neighbors. She's a mellow bird. Her left foot has a very crooked middle toe which causes her to walk with a limp, but she gets by. She's recently stopped cheeping like a baby chicken and has developed a very deep grownup chicken voice that reminds me of an old lady who's been smoking her whole life.

After 3 Spot left, I was excited to get Puff integrated with the rest of the flock. Stanley and I let her out of her enclosure for a few short sessions to see how the other girls would react. The results were not good. As soon as they noticed the little newcomer, the other chickens went into attack mode, ganging up on her and pecking her relentlessly. I've heard that this situation can get bloody and even deadly, so every time I freaked out and put her back in the safety of her little run after just a few minutes.

Not wanting to give up so easily, we constructed this little Tupperware enclosure for her. We measured Puff and the other girls and cut an opening that's just big enough for her, but not any of the older birds. A week or so ago we put her in it, took it out of her run, and left her in with the rest of the chickens. Our hope was that she would recognize that she was safe in there and have a place to run and hide to get away for the relentless pecking.

Not wanting to stick around and watch the carnage - I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it, and I wanted her to have the chance to fend for herself - we left and went for a walk in the woods. When we got back about an hour later I asked Stanley if he would go check on her first so I wouldn't have to be the one to discover a pecked to death Puff - not that I expected that, but I was well aware of the possibility. I waited in the front driveway for an all clear yell. It took a few minutes, but finally he called me over.

He was holding Puff, who was very much alive, but was visibly shaken. He had found her in the back corner of the run with her head through the wire fence, her wings extended, being pecked relentlessly by Blondy, the Buff Sussex. It seems that poor little Puff had tried to run away and get through the fence, but had found herself trapped and had given up on life. He thought she was already dead when he first saw her, and was certain that she would have been if he hadn't shown up when he did. She seemed to have no understanding that the blue Tupperware was supposed to be a refuge for her. I'm learning that chickens aren't very smart. I guess they don't call them bird brained for nothing....

Here's Blondy today, looking longingly at Puff who is safe in her enclosure. I was bound and determined to give it another try today. Since Blondy seems to be the meanest of them all I put her in Puff's enclosure by herself and put Puff out with the other girls in the safety of her blue Tupperware. Puff came out and was immediately terrorized by everyone, the Wheaton Maran, the Black Copper Marans, the Welsummer, and even the gentle Red Sussex all had a go at her. She ended up crawling under a tarp, trying to get away and clucking in sheer chicken terror.

I couldn't stand it. After about 20 minutes I gave up and put Blondy back in the run and Puff back in the safety of her enclosure.

So that's where it stands. I'm beginning to think this integration thing just won't work. Puff seems happy enough in her dog kennel and little run, but winter is coming and it doesn't seem insulated enough to withstand the cold winds. My other options of letting her live or die at the beaks of the big mean chickens or butcher her for her meat don't seem too appealing either.

On the bright side - 5 of my 6 big chickens are laying now. We've got all the eggs we can eat. If only they could learn to be nice......
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  1. Another idea occurred to me. Perhaps you could find someone via CL or BYCC that has chickens that are younger than, or closer to the age/size of puff. Don't beat yourself up, either way you've done right by each and every one of those birds from day one. Be proud.

  2. Whenever we've integrated new birds with an established flock (we've done it twice now so we're not experts by any means), we put the new ones in a wire rabbit crate or dog crate - completely enclosed and safe. They have their water, their food, shelter if it rains (our coop porch where we put the cage has a roof), a little perch and they are safe from the older girls who want to get them as the newbie clucks away in the coop next to them. They stay there for at least a week. The other girls can check them out and stand on the crate and do whatever it is that chickens do but they can't peck or harm them. We've been pretty successful - maybe try something like that?

  3. Thsnks Judy! Her dog kennel and seperate run is actually already in the middle of the big girl's run. They've been able to interact through the chicken wire for over a month now. It doesn't seem to make any difference when she's let out into the big run. Thanks for the thought though!

  4. Poor Puff and poor you. I couldn't stand by and watch her get pecked on either. I now nothing about chickens but I'm sure your readers will give you some good ideas! Good Luck...debbie


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