Hildy the blind hen – Pecking order February 22, 2013
Last week I wrote about my blind hen, Hildy; she was completely blind in one eye, and seemed to have very limited vision in her other eye. I’ll tell another story about Hildy this week. (It’s wonderful to be able to share stories about a hen with people who understand how much personality chickens can have!)
I mentioned last week that the injury leading to her blindness had dropped her in the pecking order. My flock has plenty of space to forage, since they free range, and there is plenty of space also at feeders, waterers, roosts, nests, etc., so pecking order disputes were (and remain) mild. I wasn’t that worried about her pecking order status; it would have to be what it had to be. I was more worried that allowing a blind hen to free range would mean we’d lose her to a predator one day.
As time passed, though, our blind hen Hildy somehow promoted herself in the pecking order; she was no longer at the bottom. That was something neither my husband nor I had expected; we had presumed she would always be at or very near the bottom of the pecking order. After all, it’s difficult to avoid a peck that you can’t properly see coming!
But she learned; she adapted more and more to her limitations as she mastered the basics, like finding her way to the feeder. For instance, she learned how to respond to pecking from other hens: not by fleeing, but with swift retaliation! When another hen pecked her, she would erupt with blind fury–a mass of feathers, beak and talons flying through the air. It was a sight, and I suppose if you’re attacking in every direction at once, it doesn’t really matter that you can’t see your opponent. The other hens learned that it didn’t pay to accost Miss Hildy, and she was instead accorded a certain amount of respect.
When our blind hen accidentally walked into other hens, they began moving aside for her rather than pecking her. It was amazing.
I’ll continue to share stories about Hildy as there is interest. Next week would you like to hear about how she managed free ranging with her limitations? A lot of you shared in last week’s comments that you also have special needs chickens or other pets. Did they also learn to adapt over time?