Emily, one of our Ameraucanas, has always been the under-dog of the flock. She always shrinks back from the alpha-hens, and sometimes even greets me with a few feathers missing from where she's been given a warning peck on the head.
But it's never been worrisome until this past weekend.
Sunday morning, the first time I'd had a good look at the girls since our trip, I noticed two large, bloody patches on her back. Her wing feathers had been almost pecked off, and she was missing a good deal of body and neck feathers too.
I hate to quarantine our girls like nobody's business. Chickens are social birds, and the distress they go through when separated is awful to watch. In Emily's case, however, it was either pull her out of the flock or watch her slowly get pecked to death--not a hard choice.
Sunday afternoon, we caught her and rinsed her wounds well with water and hydrogen peroxide. Then, into Moe's old x-pen she went. She's been spending her days there and her nights in a crate in our shed.
As with previous experiences, Emily is way-stressed not to be able to get out to her sisters. When Adele--whom I strongly suspect of being the ringleader bully--came over to see what was up, poor Emily poked her head out of the x-pen to greet her. Adele sharply pecked her, and--instead of retreating to safety, as she well could have--Ms. Emily stuck her head out further for more abuse just to be close to her family.
This pecking behavior is typically caused by overcrowding, but I think that's unlikely in our case. We have more hens now then we've ever had (10), but with our entire backyard to roam they each have about quadruple the recommended space per bird. Which leaves me wondering if there's just something about Emily that the other girls find annoying.
It's hard to put my finger on it, but she's always been a bit odd for a chicken. This sounds really hinky, but she just moves a little differently than the other birds. She's incredibly skittish, yet sometimes instead of running away from perceived danger, she bolts straight into it. Except for the fact that she's not nearly as friendly, she reminds me a little of Knox's Etta, who we always thought was half-blind.
For right-this-second I suppose it doesn't matter much. Whatever her problems may be, the first step to fixing them is a few weeks in quarantine to grow her feathers back. Then we'll carefully reintroduce her and see what happens. Thankfully, even after just a few days she's looking much better.