Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's hard being hen-pecked

This is my pretty girl, Dot. She's a White-Crested Black Polish hen.

Look at that beautiful head of feathers:

This is how the hens of this breed are meant to look...a snow-white, fluffy head of feathers:

..and a touch of black brow feathers for stunning effect:

Dotty has always been my special gal. When you see her, it's evident that she is a bit... challenged. She's smaller, twitchier, and more excitable than the other hens. Sometimes she does really goofy things that attract the attention of the other hens. These behaviors started when she was barely more than a few weeks old (read about Dot's early months here.) I attribute these behaviors partially to her being a specialty breed and partially because she may have some developmental issues. Bottom line, though, this gal is different and chickens in general don't like different.

Unfortunately, I have already had to deal with a situation like this before. You may recall that Dot's brother, Pip, (read Pip's story here and here) was picked on by the hens, but then was also being beaten up by my dominant rooster, Roopert. Ultimately, Pip had to be rehomed.

So when I went to let the chickens out and found Dotty like this, I was horrified:

She had done so well, for so long, to avoid any pecking, I was shocked to see her:

I've heard that chickens will peck another chicken to death if blood is visible. I think the only thing that saved Dot was her flightiness and the fact that she only stands still when she roosts:

I couldn't tell yet how wounded she was, so I put her in the utility sink and washed her off as best I could. It wasn't as bad as I had feared:

Then I used some baby shampoo and a Q-tip: clean her up a bit more:

Roxy, my pup, was worried about Dot (and why she was sitting in my lap on the bathroom floor). She really likes the chickens:

Now I could see the extent of the pecking. Those big mean hens of mine really did a number on her:

Sniff, sniff, sniff:

After all the excitement, Dot napped in my lap:

Then came the blowdryer. She didn't mind the noise at all and seemed to enjoy the warmth:

No damage to her eye, thankfully. Looks like just the hair follicles were pecked:

On the bright side, it kind of looks like she had a trim. She had been having a hard time seeing through all those feathers. Now she can see just fine:

She spent one night in the 5-star Critter Farm Chicken Hotel (a.k.a. dog carrier in the laundry room) with some special chicken vitamin water and a bowl of oatmeal mixed with layer feed:

And went back to the coop the next day.

Poor Dot. There's a reason those chickens books recommend not mixing specialty breeds with bigger, hardier breeds.


  1. Oh Poor Dot! Poor sweetheart!

    My... this brought back memories of our own chicken violence episode. I'm so glad you found her when you did!

    Give her a little yogurt from her friends over here in Cedar Mill!

  2. I have a buff laced Polish who has the same problem, plus they peck at her butt feathers. I am constantly having to try to remedy the situation. I have never seen her with a proper topknot. Funny thing is I have 2 white topknot black Polish and they never get picked on...

    1. We had the same experience. The buff laced are more prone to genetic issues from what I have read. We have much better luck with white crested black or blue.

  3. Poor Dot, that look of concern on Roxy's face is adorable.

  4. Danni, when Dot has all her feathers on her head can she see OK? I've never had a Polish but I've heard they have a difficult time seeing through the head feathers. Terrible the other bully girls pick on her, poor thing.

    1. I've found it depends on the breeder. We've had a lot of luck with white crested black hens. Buff laced not so much, and one of our white crested blue roosters can't see well. I much prefer to pick out polish from breeders I know! Love the breed, they are super friendly and curious, but only if they have the right amount of crest--not some crazy top hat that may please a human, but can't possibly be a good thing from a bird perspective!

  5. Oh my goodness. Poor Dot. I sure hope she heals up and they leave her alone. Duck and weave Dot, duck and weave.

  6. Poor dot! You cleaned her up well and took good care of her. Do you have any of that BluKote stuff to dob onto her wounds so the other hens won't see the red color of the blood? I've never had to use it on my hens, but I hear works well.

    "hair" follicles, Danni?

  7. Poor Dot! Boy ckickens can sure be mean to each other!

  8. Poor poor little Dot! My daughter's white chicken with the pom-pom head dressing had the same problem, mostly on her tail feathers, a couple months ago. They call her "Itty-Bitty" and now, after she was treated with that powder-like stuff that turns blue, and sitting in one of the nesting boxes most of the day with her tail end toward the back of the box, is doing just fine and seems to have established her place in the flock. The others don't seem to pick on her any more and she runs around the yard with the best of them. I hope this can happen to Dot soon. Poor thing!

  9. Poor thing! My polish act kinda funny too! They seem confused a lot and nervous, or something. I'm glad you found her before something worse happened.

  10. Poor Dot!! You need to get guinea fowl...they are much nicer than those mean old chickens!! Ha Ha!!I hope she does well. What a good girl Roxy!!

  11. Poor Dot!! I have had some issues with a chicken getting picked on.

    The last one was a young homegrown Barred Rock mix pullet. For some reason they turned on her and she looked real similar to Dot. Unfortuately they must have caused some brain damage because she couldn't use her legs properly and after 2 weeks of nursing she was the same way. I regretfully had to send her to the big chicken coop in the sky.

    Hopefully they will leave Dot alone but I would definitely keep an eye on her/them.....she may have to be re-homed too. :(

  12. I am sorry for poor Dot! I hope they leave her alone now.

  13. Oh no! Poor girl. I hope she is ok.

  14. Oh, poor dot. I sure hope you're able to keep on top of the problem. It's a really tough situation to be in.

  15. Yikes! Time for plan b I guess. What a bummer though. Get her counseling though...she will have issues.

    This is dumb, but we have a cat which was tormented by other cats as a younger cat and she isn't the same anymore. Therapy is silly of course, but she may never be able to be around the others again...

    Anyhow, good on your for rescuing her!

  16. You are a good chicken mama chicken sister.

  17. Poor Dot!!! Mean old hens, they're probably just jealous because they don't have such a beautiful "do" like Dot does!! She might possibly be related to Tina Turner...

  18. Hi dina - oh, I remember your awful experience - (shiver). Yogurt, good idea! Usually the big treat around here is cottage cheese. :-)

    Hi claire! Are your topknot black polish the same breed as Dot? What do you do to try to prevent the picking on the buff laced one?

    Hey sugar(creekstuff) :-) - Roxy likes being involved in everything that goes on around here and isn't shy about giving her input and opinion on things.

    Hi joanna - You're right - that's absolutely one of the things about the ornamental Polish breed that makes them extremely vulnerable: their fancy headdress impairs their vision significantly. Any time I need to catch her, I just come at her from the top - she doesn't have a clue until I grab her. Peripherally she is affected, too. At least she was, until her friendly coopmates "plucked her eyebrows", so to speak. She can see peripherally just fine now. :-) Maybe that will help her to get away from them faster.

    Mim - your comment made me laugh! I can totally picture her, with all her erratic running back and forth, also doing the "duck and weave" thing! :-)

    Hi Farmer Jen - I do have BluKote and have used it extensively. You know what? I've never seen that it made any difference at all. Except maybe that it killed all the germs, which is its primary use. What I have noticed is that it stains my fingers (generally also my clothes and maybe the tip of my nose, too, for some reason) and makes the birds look like they've got warpaint on. I used it a lot on Pip and it made no difference on the pecking, sadly. (Though you're right, one couldn't see the color 'red' anymore).

    Hair took me the longest time to understand why you were laughing at me. I even read it outloud to Jim, saying "why is jen laughing at this??" I said it over and over and over and.....oh. Ha ha....guess I better change that to "feather", huh? I have completely personified my chickens, haven't I? :-)

    Hi tracey - Chickens can be really mean to each other. Kind of like a bunch of bullies in a schoolyard. Not pretty! I just want to send them all to their rooms!

    Hi californiagrammy :-) - Ugh - you mean I have to worry about the tail feathers, too? Of course I do - this totally is where Pip got a horrible wound, I had almost forgotten. Like your daughter's hen, Dotty has recently taken to sleeping in one of the nest boxes and I'm letting her. That seems an appropriate solution given the situation, right? Though when she's "out and about", they still chase her around, but she's faster than everyone else. I believe the worst pecking comes when she's sitting on the same roosting bar as they are and, for some reason, she lets them peck and pick at her head. I can't figure out any other way they'd be able to get to her like that.

    Hi nancy - yeah, I've yet to hear stories from anyone about "how smart my Polish chicken is". Guess that's what happens when one breeds for appearance traits only, huh? Dotty is awfully sweet, though. I feel very protective of her, despite her seemingly low IQ. :-)

    Hey eve, I wouldn't mind having a few guinea around here! Though I think my husband would probably leave me if I told him he needed to build another coop! lol

    Hi Wrensong Farm - Dang - chickens are CRUEL. What is the reasoning behind this? Is this an internal instinct thing of trying to "weed out" the weaker members of their flock? So there is less competition for food? I don't get it...

    Hi Mo! Thanks - she seems to be holding her own right now and, as I mentioned above to Farmer Jen, has taken to sleeping in one of the nest boxes, which offers her a lot of protection from the "night peckers". :-)

    Hi Christy - yeah, I'd stick to the Buffs for a while, if I were you! I certainly won't be mixing ornamentals with standard breeds anymore. Learned my lesson. Unless you keep 2 flocks completely separate, I just don't see how it can work.

    Hey farm mom - You know me - I'll keep trying to make it work until it just won't work anymore. :-)

    Hi warren - funny, that. Just yesterday I was looking online for "Poultry Psychiatry" and you know what? Nothing there. Hmpf.

    Hi goatgirl - Thanks, chicken sister. But you were the smarter one. You didn't do ornamentals.

  19. Poor Dotty. Everyone always picking on her. Poor girl. Just cuz shes a little different.....

    And of course you brought her in and bathed her and dried her and let her sleep in your lap....doesnt everyone do that? Seriously.

    Roxy. Always the curious one offering up her opinion.....

  20. Dot sure had a sore head, didn't she? Bless her little heart.
    You took real good care of her though.
    I know how our chickens were mean to our Polish chicks. They were happy when we separated them from the mean ones, which the meanest just happened to be the littlest ones. Those little silver sebrights.
    I hope Dot if feeling better now.
    Have a great weekend.

  21. I have a bantam hen, very small and confused, that was picked on for a long time ( not as badly as Dot ) but she held her own and now seems to have been accepted by the big hens. It's a shame that this has to happen.
    Please keep an eye on Dot and take extra care with her. She may need help her whole life: My little "Squeeky" never seems to understand the world but she brings us joy because she's who she is.
    You did such a good job cleaning and caring for Dot. She won't soon forget you loving-kindness.

  22. There is always a price for being different...and beautiful. Glad I'm just one of those. Hmmmm any guesses as to which, snort!

    You are a good chicken mama. Kim

  23. *sob* oh, poor Dot!!!!!! Poor girl! *sniff*....Feel better soon, Dot! I sure hope they aren't as mean anymore...I'm so glad we never had such a problem with our hens...they got pecked, but never bad enough to draw blood...*shudder*

  24. Oh my, poor Dot! What a little chicken sweetheart! Glad she's ok!

  25. So what did you do to help this heal. I have a rooster who has had all his top feathers picked out and I'm not sure what to do for him. I keep blue coat on his head to hide any blood spots but I would like to know how I can help get those feathers to grow back in.

  26. I have a bantam polish in with a bunch of standard sized who gets picked on. Everyone else does great. Even her other bantam buddy. My issue is that the blood matts into her remaining crest feathers and stiffens. I can't get it clean without destroying the few feathers she has left. I wish I had put the feathers up in a pony tail when it first started to protect her head more. Now everything sets off the bleeding and the feathers are rock hard. Any suggestions on how to deal with it when the blood turns into rock hard glue. I get about 5 to 10 minutes of gentle washing before she completely panics so I've run gentle water over it trying to break it up but I really have made no progress. And with the feather shafts exposed everything sets it off bleeding again.

  27. I just had to respond to the comment of no one bragging about their smart polish. We have a couple of white crested polish hens that are the leaders of the flock, excellent with other birds, curious, and yes, smart. They help me in the garden. I bring them in when looking for cabbage worms in the kale and they wait for me. When I pull down a leaf, they know that's where the big fat ones are. We are careful adding to our flock. So far we have done well with Buff Orpington, Australorp, Cochin, Cornish, Faverolle, and I've just ordered Sussex and Buckeye. We just look for less aggressive and more friendly heritage breeds. Our mistake was in once accepting a couple of bantams polish. That's a whole new level of challenge w the pecking because of their size. Both are at the bottom of the pecking order, but one has good social skills and has a lovely crest. The other has a Napolian complex and we are having problems with her head feathers getting pecked.


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