Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Poor Pecked Pip

Two of my twelve chickens are White-Crested Black Polish chickens. When I first saw them at farm store back in March, I was fascinated with how they looked.

I picked them from the straight-run bin, meaning they had not been sexed, and I knew this meant I had a 50%/50% chance of getting a rooster.

They were absolutely adorable when they were babies and were always visiting children's favorites because of their funny, little puff-ball heads (Dot is on the roost, Pip is below the roost):

As they have gotten older, they have been healthy and, for the most part, seemed to fit in well with the others, although, in the picture below, you can see that Dot's wall-staring began quite early:

It became clear a few weeks ago, when bright red wattles started to grow from the sides of Pippi's face that Pippi is a rooster:

I used to think that Dot was a roo, due to her odd behavior and rapid feather growth, but it's pretty clear that Pippi now needs to be called Pip.

Pip is a very hardy bird and isn't easily frightened (unlike Dot), but when I'm not looking, someone is pecking the crap out of poor Pip. I'm growing very concerned. I spend a LOT of time with my chickens and haven't been able to see anyone looking even sideways at him, so I can't figure out who is doing it. And I can't figure out why he doesn't run away.

Warning: If you are easily disturbed by chicken-on-chicken brutality, look away for this next photo:

At first it was just a few feathers, but now the damage is starting to go down the back side of his itty-bitty bird head. The purple tinge to the outlying feathers that you see in the picture above is from the Blu-Kote antiseptic and the "Pick-No-More" solution I have been daubing him with, both of which are supposed to dissuade the pecking. Neither appears to be doing any good.

Pip needs a helmet.

If you recall the book Runaway Ralph, by Beverly Cleary, you'll remember how Ralph fashioned himself a motorcycle helmet from an old ping-pong ball. Something like this is what I have in mind for my Pip:

But until I figure out how to make a chicken helmet, he's going to have to continue to run around with a smelly, purple head:

Poor guy. It'll be hard for him to get anywhere with the ladies looking like this.


  1. Rural Writer TishMay 20, 2008 at 4:36 PM

    I think once you figure out how to make helmets for chickens, you should get together with that other lady that sells chicken saddles, and start up a Chic Chicken Couture shop. :-)

  2. Well I don't know what to tell you Danni! Poor ol Pip...get him a helmet! If Ralph can do it so can Pip!
    I got my book today..."Gardening with Guineas" now I'm going to sit and read!

  3. A chicken helmet! You are funnier than me.
    So how many roos do you have? Usually hens wont bother roos but other roos will or so I heard.

    I cant wait for your donkeys.

  4. I'm sure it wouldn't be to hard to cut a ping pong ball in half if you really wanted too. Pip and Dot are my favorites and are definitely on the top of the breed list for when we are able to get chickens.

  5. If there is a chance of seeing a photo of your rooster with a helmet, I will be checking your blog hourly! How funny!!

  6. Oh goodness, this brings up all kinds of issues. If Pip has to wear a helmet, will he suffer from helmet hair? What sort of chin strap will he need, since he has no discernable chin? Will the girls consider him a nerd or a trendsetter? Will they all want helmets, too? After his feathers grow back, will he still want to wear the helmet just because it's cool?

    He'll need some lightning bolts on that helmet, you know!

    Poor Pip. I hope you find out who it is that's giving him such a hard time.

  7. Sugarcreekstuff is right. It's more likely that your other rooster is picking on Pip to establish his dominance than it is a hen. Didn't your Wyondotte rooster mature a little earlier than Pip? It may stop once they are both mature or you may have to separate them.

  8. My daughter just read the Mouse on a Motorcycle by the same author and she thought his helmet was so cute. Made out of a ping pong ball and all!!! She was a little disturbed by the elastic holding it on. Maybe a tennis ball for Pip?

  9. Hi Rural Writer Tish, what an excellent idea...and talk about a specialty shop! lol :-)

    Hi gudl - I know!!

    Hi eve - can't wait to hear how the 'guinea project' turns out. I love how those little guys run back and forth at the Lighthouse Sanctuary - I've always wondered what contributions to a farm they would bring!

    Hi sugarcreekstuff - why, thank you, but as you know, you and i trade the 'funny award' quite frequently. :-) I've got two definite roos (and hopefully no more on the way), but Rupert (my big roo) rarely shows any interest in Pip. Occasionally they'll bump chests in a mini-show of might, but I've seen NO pecking. sigh.

    Hi badhuman, well, something's gotta be done, so there's no reason NOT to try the PPB solution..I'll keep you posted.

    Hi NW nature nut...ha ha, no need to check hourly, most projects tend to stew in my brain for a bit before the actual execution - I'll keep you posted on the helmet progress, though. :-)

    Oh city farmer...I laughed until I cried over your response. You are FUNNY! (sugarcreekstuff, city farmer wins the funny prize today.) Your concern over the chinstrap on his lack of a "discernable chin" about made me wet my pants. (sorry, too much info, I'm sure) Thanks for the giggles.

    Hi farmer jen - yup, you are right, my SL Wyandotte did mature earlier and because I know the issues with having multiple roosters, I've been watching very closely how they interact, but I've seen *nothing* that would confirm Rupert is taking out his aggression on poor Pip....I sure hope it stops.

    Hi judy - I absolutely LOVED all Beverly Cleary's books when I was small and I read many of them to my own boys when they were small. Did you know that Beverly Cleary is from Portland, OR? Her Ramona the Pest books frequently mention Portland streets and locations! :-)

  10. and her Mom said,
    Poor baby! But I know he's getting the best of loving care from you. I sure wish I knew something about chickens to give you some advice but I think your helmet plan sounds pretty creative :)

  11. We also saw no perpetrator when we were watching the girls and boys ever so closely. Must be a very crafty chick to hide the attacks on Pip so completely. I f you knew who it is, I'd suggest separation for a day or so.

  12. From what I can see from the photo, this is not just a simple case of pecking. If you look very closely I think that you will find that the purple or pinkish stuff is an infestation of insects called MITES. They are literally eating the feather shaft & sucking blood. Put a big blob of Vasoline on the area. This will gum up the way the insects breathe & they will die. Also check the rest of the bird from that area down the neck and all over the body, especially around the vent area, aplying the Vasoline on any found. Check the rest of your birds as well. Good Luck. (The Vasoline also works on tics on dogs)


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