Bonafide Farm

Cora update: One of the flock now

September 19th, 2012 § 0

I had a great question from a reader after I posted my last update on Cora, the maimed pullet who’s managed to survive despite losing all the skin on her neck and skull. My reader wanted to know if I’d managed to integrate Cora into the flock.


Cora and Calabrese, her young rooster husband, had been living for several weeks in a dog crate surrounded by chicken wire within the coop, which created an attack-safe zone that kept them away from the angry beak of my older hen Lilac, who seemed bent on destroying them. But I worried about the effects of confinement on my growing young birds. And, eventually, Calabrese was going to have to man up and be the flock cock, even though he’d also been bloodied in the same attack that almost killed Cora.

I had hoped that the Wheatens, which are almost as large as the other birds, had grown enough to hold their own, and I reasoned that forcing all to live in protected proximity might smooth the path of integrating the birds, which is a notoriously hard process and one at which I’d already failed earlier this summer. So a week ago Friday night I took the plunge. At dusk, as the birds were starting to get ready for bed, I released Cora and Calabrese into the coop.

And Lilac made a beeline for them, hell bent for murder. She got a couple of savage pecks in on the pair before I scooped her up. And tossed her in the dog crate. If she can’t behave, she’ll live in prison.

I set Cora and Calabrese up on the top roost. They tottered and bobbed, never having roosted on something so high off the ground. By then it was night, so I shut up the coop and left, hoping that the old farmer’s trick of introducing new birds under cover of dark would work. But I was in and out of a light sleep all night, worried that I’d open the coop in the morning to bloodied and possibly dead birds. I even set my alarm for sunrise so I could check on them when they awoke, which I did in my pajamas and slippers Saturday morning.

All seemed well. But I set an alarm to check the birds every hour. And I did.


Miracle of miracles, Cora and Calabrese were accepted in to the flock. They even took to landing a few jabs on their new flockmates, just to establish themselves in the pecking order. And now more than a week later, they’re still doing fine.

Cora in Run

I find it interesting to note, though, that Cora and Calabrese tend to stick close together and don’t really pal around with the rest of the flock. The photo above is a pretty good illustration of the usual dynamic. I have also noticed that my older hen Iris also keeps to herself or prefers to hang out with her sister Lilac—who is still living in jail except when I bring her out to forage in the garden. Not ideal, as I’d had hopes for all nine birds to live in harmony.

My observations make me wonder if chickens have a concept similar to friendship or companionship in their social dynamic. Has anyone else noticed similar behavior, particularly amongst groups of birds that were separately raised and then combined in one flock?

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