Not-So-Mean Martha

Last week we took Lizzy out of solitary confinement and let her back into the henhouse with the rest of the chickens. Her feathers had grown back in nicely, and it didn’t look like she was pecking at herself at all: no purple beak, no feathers on the floor. 

On the other hand, Rachel still had freshly pecked spots around her vent (that’s the egg hole for you non-farmers), so someone else was causing the damage. 

Naturally, we suspected Martha, due more to her reputation than to any real evidence. So into the box she went to see if the other chickens would heal without her around.

So on Easter morning I went out to check on Martha and Smithy, and was alarmed to see this:

There was blood everywhere:

I’m not sure that picture quite does justice to the murder-esque scene in there. Here’s a closer look at what we were afraid was going to be a bloody mess of a chest wound:

And a bloody mess it was, but not a chest wound. Tiegan came outside help me see what was going on. I held Martha tight (you really have to clamp down their wings if you don’t want to get a feathery slap in the face), while Tiegan took a good look between the feathers at the skin on her chest.


But what we did end up figuring out was that one of her claws was broken. Not the bones — just the fingernail part. If you’ve ever accidentally cut your dog’s claws back too far, it was like that. Somehow she must have caught it on something and cut herself to the quick — and promptly scratched at her chest and bled all over the roost.

Anyway, Tiegan got the Blu-Kote and painted over her bloody feet and broken claw. Then she carefully painted all of her red feathers purple. As I’ve mentioned before, chickens get a taste for blood and are then attracted to peck at red spots, so we wanted to camouflage her bleeding before she started to pull the feathers on her chest for real.

Tiegan pointed out while we were tending to Martha that she was painting a chicken instead of eggs: “This is the weirdest Easter project ever.”

Here’s Martha rocking her new purple punk look: 


She really was no worse for wear at all. She had had enough of Blu-Kote and jumped away from me before I could get her back inside, so we let her range for the rest of the day. Here she is enjoying some spa time takin a dirt bath, happy as can be:

She also has been very easy to pick up and move around lately — nothing at all like Lizzy, who straight-up attacked me (again!) yesterday when I went to get some eggs. This is crazy stuff: She was out ranging in the yard and made a point to come right up to jump on my leg and peck my knee.

I still don’t think Lizzy is the one pecking other birds, but she’s a total jerk and I kind of hate her. 

I also don’t think Martha is the problem, either, since Rachel is still being pecked, and Sally looks like she’s losing vent feathers again, too. So we’ll probably let Martha out of the cage and put Rachel in — not because we think she’s the culprit (she’s definitely a victim), but so that she can have a chance to heal up, which seemed to help Lizzy (though not with the attitude). 

I’m not sure we’ll ever figure out who’s doing the pecking and feather-pulling, but we’ll keep trying.


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