Monday, April 25, 2011
Tales from the Roost: The Pecking Order
It is just the way nature works. Or at least the way chickens work. There is a pecking order, which means someone is at the top and someone is at the bottom. Unfortunately, that last someone is me. Gingerbread Baby. Or Ginger, as the human calls me.
Lowest of the low. Last to eat. Last to drink. Last to be let into the nesting box - even when Puff is having one of her episodes and hogging up the one on the right. Last for everything.
True, I was late coming to this flock. I arrived with Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Tucked into a dark box, they brought us here. Weeks later, we moved to the large red coop on the big back hill. The other hens had it out for us from the beginning. Minerva lost it one day, flying at the human and getting herself all bloody and such. After that, the others gave her a wide berth which left only me to peck.
Puff, whom I gather was lowest before we came, wanted to make darn sure she got out of that position. She has pecked and prodded me since day one. Here I am, minding my own business in the far corner of the run when, bam, Puff pokes me in the rear. There, the human tosses in some scraps. I know well enough not to go for the cheese or pasta but God forbid I sneak a bit of Swiss chard. Puff is all over me, pecking and clucking, until I hop onto the roost and wait the whole thing out.
I'd been resigned to being low cluck on the totem pole. It is just the way of things. Until that terrible terrible day. I felt the urge and crept into the nesting box. Puff was in the right one with that glazed look on her face so I took the left - which we all like better anyway. Better real estate, really. Better view through the coop door. Further from the path and the hooting children. Quieter. Safer.
There I crouched, scratching at the shavings and waiting to lay my egg when she came. Miss Queen Bee. She chattered about being in "her nesting box". 'Scuse me. Don't see the name "Serena". Still, I should have moved. I usually duck out of the way but my egg was so darn close. Why didn't she just holler at Puff instead. I hunkered down, trying to speed things up when Ms. Thang grabbed my comb and ripped and tore. Dear reader, I don't remember what happened next. I've blocked it from my brain. The blood spatter on the nesting boxes, under the roost, along the walls and across the window could tell the story, I'm sure.
I got out of the hen house as fast as I could. The human found me in the run an hour later with the other ladies, my blond feathers stained brown with blood. She cornered me. With nowhere to run and too tired to try, I let the human take me. She cleaned me with a warm towel, dabbed ointment on my comb, and fed me scrambled eggs, rice and yogurt. It was almost worth it. Almost.
The next day, back on the ground, I was a different hen. I wouldn't mess with Serena again. I'd give up the nesting box but ain't no way, no how I was going to be at the bottom all of my life. Minerva popped by to see how I was healing and I took her down. I don't need to be top hen. Somewhere in the middle is just fine.