Dizzy Miss Lizzy
A couple weeks ago we noticed that several of our chickens were having their feathers plucked by some big meanie. My thoughts immediately went to Martha, who was known to bully the younger girls in her quest to replace Dolley as the henhouse’s ruler of the roost.
Martha still hasn’t shown a smidge of purple dye on her beak, though. That would be a telltale sign that she’s pecking at the other chickens, since we’ve been applying Blu-Kote to their sad, sore butts.
And while I’m happy to report that Sally is growing in new feathers nicely, Rachel and Lizzy have freshly plucked bare spots that look red and raw and terrible. To wit:
This is Lizzy’s sad butt. It’s not quite as raw as all that — this photo is after we painted it blue, but the color came out more blood-red than purple in the photo. (The idea behind the blue medicine is to help prevent infection and to mask the redness so that chickens don’t keep fussing at it. Unlike bulls, they are actually incited to violence by the color red, at least on skin.)
So you wouldn’t think that Lizzy could possibly be doing that to herself, right?
Lady has turned incredibly aggressive over the past week or so, puffing out her chest and pacing the doorway to the run whenever one of us walks by. She also straight-up attacked me when I went to pick up Sally the other day, leaping onto my arm and giving me a good jab on the back of my hand for my trouble.
She’s always been (ahem) flighty and nervous, but now she’s turning her energy to the offensive.
It wasn’t easy, but Kirk managed to grab her for the aforementioned butt medicine (note the gloves):
To test our hunch that Lizzy is actually the one causing the problems (i.e. worrying herself half to death by picking at her own feathers as well as on anyone else who might cross her path), we put her in the chicken version of solitary confinement:
You may recall that we used the modified brooder to hold Martha in the workshop when she was being a jerk last summer. Now it’s Lizzy’s turn to think about what she’s done for a few weeks.
In the meantime, here’s a little more evidence that Martha isn’t the problem:
That’s her with poor, henpecked Rachel, enjoying each other’s company in the yard. They were cheek to cheek earlier, so I don’t think Rachel is as terrified of Martha as one would expect if she were pulling out all of her feathers.
Also, today I found some incriminating evidence on Lizzy:
Can you see how completely purple her beak is? She’s definitely been nosing around her wounds, though there aren’t any feathers on the floor of her cage to show that she’s been pulling them herself.
If she is the one causing all the problems out of her own nervous hysteria, I’m not sure that the alone time will do her much good. Still, one plucked hen is better than three, and if the others are growing back feathers in a week or two, we’ll know we’ve found the villain of our story.
Then we’ll need schedule a sentencing hearing.