It’s hard getting old.
Jasper and I are only 38 and 35 years old (my gosh that’s weird! Anyone else having trouble believing how old they are?), but after long days putting up fencing, digging dirt and bending over weeding the garden we definitely feel it. Exhausted, sore knees, aching backs.
There is one thing to keep in mind, though. We might think that we have it bad, but at least we’re not chickens.
If you follow me on instagram at all (and you absolutely should!) then you will know that Flower, our four-year-old Buff Orpington, and the last remaining chicken from our original group, has been ousted from the flock. We think for the singular reason that she’s old.
Chickens are such cruel birds.
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If you have chickens, or you’ve researched getting chickens, you’ve probably read about Buff Orpingtons. They are the quintessential farm yard bird – plump, matronly and unhurried – and they are also one of the friendliest breeds. Everything I’ve ever read has described them as docile and calm, friendly and patient.
And that is our Flower.
As baby chicks, when we let them out of their brooder to try and bond with them, Flower would willingly climb into our laps and just sit with us of her own free will while the others ran squawking away. I have video (if only I could find it!) of Avery clutching her and singing “This Little Piggy” and tickling her little reptilian feet. Flower didn’t mind. In fact, she seemed to like the affection and attention.
Flower has also always gotten along well with all the other chickens we’ve introduced. She’s a motherly type, and never gave the new pullets a hard time the way the others did. As chickens do though, she did prefer to pal around with the hens she grew up with, and there’s always been three separate groups within the flock itself.
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Then, this last year, both Amelia Cordelia and Coco, the only other hens from that original group, were killed by raccoons, leaving Flower alone. We felt bad for her when we saw her being ignored by the other chickens, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. We had to let the chickens work it out themselves.
Unfortunately, the way they decided to handle the situation was to turn on Flower and drive her out.
Wilhelm Von Cocklespurs, our normally valiant and gentlemanly rooster, wouldn’t let her sleep on the bar with the rest of them anymore, and so she huddled on the floor for a few nights. Then the other hens started attacking her, and ended up blinding her in her right eye, tearing off parts of her comb, and pecking her all over her body.
We had to take her out of the coop, for fear that they would kill her.
For the first few days the poor thing did little besides huddle by the back door. I didn’t have any medicine to treat her with, but I did make sure to give her lots of hearty, fortifying food, and I also fed her handfuls of fresh herbs like dead nettle, echinacea and comfrey to aid in her healing.
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She’s better now, physically, but she’s still lonely. Chickens are flock animals and Flower isn’t happy alone. Despite the fact that they tried to kill her, she spends a lot of time by the other chickens at the coop, chortling and apologizing for having the audacity to get old and less fertile. If I’m outside she’ll shadow me, silently picking her way along behind wherever I am. She tries to sneak into the house whenever we accidentally leave the door open, and yesterday she surprised me in the bathroom, bawking at me from behind the toilet! I’ve tried to talk Jasper into getting her a diaper and letting her be a house chicken, but he says no.
In a strange turn of events though, I think Flower’s saving grace will be the Puddle Ducks.
Every time we bring the ducklings outside to play, Flower is right by their side, just like an anxious mom. She follows them around, clucking reassuringly, keeping an eye out for danger and seemingly just relishing their presence. She is an amiable, social chicken, and she’s not picky about her friends. I think the ducklings appreciate that she’s a bird, like them, and not a towering featherless giant. So.
We’ll move Flower into the duck house/yard with the Puddle Ducks when Jasper has finished building it. The fence is only about four feet high, but Flower is a rather bottom-heavy old girl, so I don’t think she’ll be flying out of there. The most important thing is that she’ll have a flock again; a flock who isn’t trying to kill her simply for being elderly.
And hopefully all will be well and end well.
Poor old Flower deserves that, at least.