Monday, March 7, 2011

The hanging cabbage to prevent bullying

One of my challenges as a backyard chicken keeper is a lack of background knowledge. I grew up in a city where we purchased eggs from the A & P. I never saw anyone or helped anyone care for chickens. This kind of innate knowledge is useful and lacking.

I'm in a foreign country where everything is new and the learning curve steep. However, I can learn from books, other chicken keepers and experience. While creating my school presentations on "Rules & Rulers of the Roost: What chickens teach us about getting along," I've checked out from the library a dozen books on chicken keeping, including many picture books for children, which are highly informative.

One of the books suggested hanging a cabbage for the birds to peck on instead of each other, because they might be bored. It's raining again here in Massachusetts. The books say that chickens lack a gland to oil their feathers to keep them dry, so they hate rain and snow because they're not protected from it.

The chickens are all cooped up -- with a new toy. The swinging cabbage. They refused to peck at it while I was standing there in the rain with my camera. That's okay. I like the picture just the way it is.

They're teaching me how to take care of them and prevent bullying, perhaps. I'm afraid bullying is part of their nature. You can see the red spot on the black sex-linked hen, Mooey, right behind the cabbage. Hopefully the cabbage will give her a respite. After less than 24 hours, the head of cabbage is more than half gone.

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