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!)

Hildy the blind hen

Miss Hildy, our blind hen


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!

Blind hen "looking"

Miss Hildy, “looking” at me… or at least in my general direction.

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?




Carol werner February 22nd, 2013

They are amazing arent they? Glad to hear that she does more than hold her own.

Jessica February 22nd, 2013

Good for Hildy! I’d definitely love to hear more stories about her. I’m really fascinated by the pecking order of other people’s flocks. We only have three girls, with four more on the way in April, and our current ladies don’t really seem to have a pecking order. I’m sure the introduction of new hens will change all of that.

roberta February 22nd, 2013

Great little hen with a lot of spunk! I have a healthy Welsummer I wish would retaliate like that!

Canice February 22nd, 2013

Love these stories! Shows the world that chickens can be just as much a pet as any cat or dog or rodent.

Robin Swindler (Butterfly) February 22nd, 2013

I was glad to hear about a blind chicken cause I just started raising a few babies and one has a blind eye or did and I think with prayer and olive it is better but I’m not sure. I have only had chickens for a year and a half’ but I have had many kind and learned a lot about them. I have some outside and the 4 babies (2 Silkie’s & 2 American bantie’s I think) … I have one I am not sure what it is outside the markings are quite beautiful but different… Its so nice to know there are so many others who love their chickens and not just for food and eggs… lol

Margie February 22nd, 2013

Go Hildy! Please keep us posted. Love to hear more about her adventures. A children’s book maybe?

Kim February 22nd, 2013

I would love to hear more about Hildy. I really enjoyed reading this. One of my chickens recently lost her sight in one eye. She IS on the bottom of the pecking order though. However, they can’t free range. I really wish she would stand up to the others but maybe in time she will. Keep sharing about Hildy. 🙂

Jacquelyn Crowell February 22nd, 2013

this little story goes farther than just pecking order. I is about us humans not just chickens. We should follow her example and not allow others to put us in their pecking order. She was so brave. Could any of us be that courageous? Would love to here more of Hildy’s stories.

Cheryl Lindsay February 22nd, 2013

Miss Hildy needs her own FB page and fans!!
I teach Special Ed at a local High School, and tend to pull for the underdogs. I have rescued and adopted several different pets. One special needs cat, (like Hildy) with an eye removed and limited vision in the other rules the house!!

Rochelle February 22nd, 2013

I have a Partridge Rock (Prudence) whose vision was impaired when she was a chick. She had poor depth perception and would routinely peck about an inch short of whatever she was aiming at. She developed a particularly strong and intense peck–I suspect because she didn’t realize the problem was her aim and thought that if she just pecked harder she’d get whatever it was that was escaping her. She was fine getting food out of the feeder and water out of the waterer because the target was big enough. But she missed out on some of the treats the others got and her foraging was compromised. Sometimes she’d luck out and there’d be a bug where she pecked in addition to the one she thought she was going for. I was worried she’d have trouble with the pecking order as they grew (she is one of a flock of five). But either she got very good at compensating or she outgrew the vision problem because now (aged 9 months) her aim is spot on. She lays the smallest eggs of my flock (tied with my Ameraucana at 1.75 oz) and a little less often, but they are the richest-tasting of the lot. I loved reading about Hildy–she sounds like a delight and I’m sorry she’s no longer with you!

Brandy February 22nd, 2013

More about Hildy please!

Lynda February 22nd, 2013

I had a little blind hen that looked like Hildy. She would sit on the hatchery chicks, 15 at a time, until she was so high up on top of then she fell off. She was a great girl, but got lost one day and we couldn’t find her.

Amanda Caldwell February 22nd, 2013

I would love to hear more about Hildy! It really is amazing how beings can adapt to such handicaps.

Ryanne February 22nd, 2013

One of our Black Copper Maran hens (Alice) is completely blind but she gets around perfectly find once she learned the set up of everything. It is absolutely incredible what animals are capable of!

Jack February 22nd, 2013

Yes more on Hildy please! I haven’t ever lived with chickens, but maybe SOMEDAY… and I do love reading about them, especially as individuals.

April Ann February 22nd, 2013

I loved your story of Hildy! I would love to read more.

Itzy Bitzy Farm February 23rd, 2013

Thank you so much for this story and photos, she is beautiful. You HAVE to write a childrens book! Seriously! What a wonderful inspiring and encouraging life lesson. God bless you ALL.

Jen Coghlan February 23rd, 2013

We have a pet rooster, Alex, who is blind. One eye went bad and the other got pecked out by the other roosters (grrr!) My daughter is 8 years old and took him “under HER wing” and set up a large cage for him. She has learned to put his water and food in the exact same spot. She will take him out every day and let him stretch his legs and try to forage under her watchful eye. Yes, they are very courageous!

L.A. Waelti February 23rd, 2013

We had one just like Hildy except that she had her own personal “seeing eye” chicken. one of her litter mates, just stayed closed and watched over her and called to her if she strayed to far away. unfortunately we had a bobcat attack and it wiped out all but 2 of our chickens, Snow’s seeing eye chicken Clare was spared but Snow was not – I sometimes think she(Clare) still calls out for her as she chatters away all day long. 🙂

betsylou February 24th, 2013

i love hildy stories…keep them coming!

Carmen February 25th, 2013

you go girl!!!!!!

Kim March 6th, 2013

Heh, heh…..I am no human.—– PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE write more about my fellow chicken!!!! I enjoy reading about her whenever I cane sneak into the house to use the com- Oh, no!! My humans are back.They’re gonna be mad when they see the muddy foot prints on the key pad!! Gotta go!

Kim March 7th, 2013

Aw, Lynda, I hope you find that hen. That’s so sad! It warms my heart to think about that sweet girl sitting on 15 eggs, then breaks it to think about her getting lost.

Andrea March 15th, 2013

I really appreciate the Hildy stories. I have a young hen that lost her two siblings to a racoon and was badly injured herself. Unlike Hildy she has both her eyes…but limited eye site. She has no problem finding her food and water. But I’m having trouble introducing her to the flock. And every time I do she is pecked bloody. I’m scared for her. Your stories give me hope. And I hope one day the ladies except her so she can leave her little cage. 🙁

Lissa March 16th, 2013

I hope so, too!

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