Chickens are SO MEAN. I guess I already knew that, but the last several weeks have provided further evidence to the cruel, cutthroat nature of hens. Elsie, being smart for a change, started molting two weeks ago. I consider this a smart move, because she will have all her new fluffy feathers by the time the nights actually get into the thirties.
But then again, maybe it's a defense mechanism because she knows her place in the pecking order. Being at the very bottom, she generally gets bullied and is last to the food. She also doesn't get to cuddle with the other three when they go to roost at night. Abby, Frannie, and Pearl are all snuggled up together and poor little Elsie is stuck a few feet over, all by herself. Normally this is ok, but when you're half naked and sleeping in a coop that gets to 43 degrees at night, risk of hypothermia is a real concern. So she's smart for doing it now and not when it's 33 degrees in the coop at night, which is what it will be in the next few months.
So to compensate from the lack of love she's get getting from her own species, she's been getting some much needed love and affection from us this last week. I came home to Shawn cuddling her in the living room the other day, and she's gotten some alone time, away from the others with the feeders. She's been looking and feeling a little skinnier lately, and spends half the day up in the coop to get away from the constant pecking that the others are inflicting on her. So she's been getting extra bowls of food in there to keep her company. We've also been cooking her up some special meals: scrambled eggs with sunflower seeds and carrots, leftover beans and rice with corn meal, and extra piles of corn scratch that she can eat in peace away from the others. She needs lots of protein and fat right now to help with the regrowing of her feathers, and she's getting there.
But MAN, chickens are mean. I hope she dishes some back to the others when they decide to start molting in the next couple weeks. But then again, she's so sweet, I'm sure she'll still get bullied. (Sigh.)
Poor sweet Elsie.