Apparently one of the topics the hens have been talking about lately is the realization that their wings are more than just pretty. At separate times here and there a hen has spread her wings and gotten just enough clearance to fly over the electric fence. This weekend one of the Orpingtons realized she could do it. When I lifted the fence for her to go back in she walked in the other direction, nervous. She ended up running away from me and puppy Jake couldn’t resist the lure of running prey so he ran after her. The game was afoot! Fortunately she was able to elude capture by him and accidentally worked herself into a corner, enabling us to catch her. Before releasing her in the enclosure we banded her for identification purposes and clipped one of her wings so she couldn’t fly over the netting again.
Meet Scarlet. She is a cross between buff Orpington and blue Orpington. She and two of her sisters are the Orpington portion of our egg-laying flock. Orpingtons lay a lighter egg so if you get a white or light porcelain-looking egg in your egg carton from Sweet Gum Farm, it was laid by Scarlet or one of her sisters.
These longer gray feathers like the ones I am touching are the primary feathers. It doesn’t hurt the chicken to clip them. It’s like clipping our fingernails or cutting our hair; there isn’t any blood flow to the area so there is no pain to the chicken when we cut them. If we cut these feathers on only one side of the chicken, then they lose the ability to lift themselves in flight. These feathers will grow back eventually, but until then it should help keep them safely in their enclosure behind the electrified netting so no predators like dogs, foxes, possums, raccoons, etc can get to them. Our dogs tested the netting when we put it up and gave it a two-paws up, indicating it did indeed serve as a deterrent for them.
As we clip the hens’ wings we are banding them with colored anklets –we told them the bands were their bling– a few hens each night until they are all done. With the colored bands we know at a glance who has already been clipped. An additional plus is that now we can keep track of which hen is which in case we notice anything we want to keep an eye on, such as if the head hen is pecking excessively at a particular hen or if we think we see an injury or wound and want to get a closer look. It also helps me know which one is which so I can give them all names! So far we have Pecky Becky, a red sex-link who is the head hen and mean to the other ladies, and Lulu, the red sex-link escapee last week who threw us for a LuluLoop. We also have Scarlet above, an Orpington.
Meet Viola! She is also a red sex link hen and she ran out of the fence when we lifted it to put Scarlet back in.
This is Bertha (pre-clipping, obviously, with those beautiful, long primary feathers), who is a tough girl. She is second in command in the hen hierarchy. She has some sassitude to her!
Last but not least for this weekend’s clippees was Merry. There are a few more who need to be clipped and banded so we’ll get them in the next few days.