Ragamuffin Hens

So I shared that we got these hens for free and how excited I am, but I left out some details about the hens themselves.  They are a bit….ragamuffiny (Is that a word?  If not, I’m inventing it, take note and add it to your dictionary :-)).

First, let me give you a bit of background of our previous experience with chickens.  We bought 11 Americana chicks from our local feed store.  We raised them in a good-sized area, no overcrowding, and fed them well on chicken feed and plenty of kitchen scraps.  They were always big and beautiful with shiny smooth feathers.  The only time they looked less than that was during molting.  And they always layed big, thick-shelled, healthy eggs.

The reason the woman was getting rid of these hens (and for free) was because she had too many and they were overcrowded.  When we went to pick them up I got a look at what overcrowded chicken conditions look like.  Ugh.  It was rough.  We originally just were going to take 6, but my heart went out to the situation so we took all 8 that she wanted to get rid of.  She told us they ranged in age from 6 months to 5 years of age.  Does a 5-year-old chicken even lay eggs anymore?  But it was a package deal and we couldn’t just take the two babies (besides the fact we wanted more than two), so we took them all.  There are 2 Plymouth Rocks, 3 Americanas, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 mixed breed, and 1 Rhode Island Red.  There are two 6-month-olds, one 5-year-old, and the other 5 of them are anywhere from 1-4 years old.  So our “let’s get some chickens this fall instead of waiting till spring chicks” idea has become a rescue/rehab/geriatric chicken type scenario.  Not exactly what we were going for – but something I am willing to give a try.  The older ones might not be long for this world, though I am willing to keep an older hen if she proves to be broody and willing to raise chicks for us even if she isn’t laying eggs.  Which it seems the 5-year-old might be since she has been protecting the younger two and they are constantly with her and cuddle up with her and seem to see her as their mom.  I don’t know for sure, but it seems like she might have been the chicken that set those chicks, though it is obvious she didn’t lay both of them.

All of them, except the young two, are pretty ragged.  They are skinny, and they have all sorts of bald spots, and none of them have shiny feathers – they are all dull.  Their eyes are clear and they are behaving normally so they don’t seem sick, just undernourished and overcrowded.

So as I have been watching them the last few days I noticed that one specific hen is pecking at the other’s feathers and pulling them out.  As far as I know this is a bad habit from overcrowding.  So we caught them one at a time and gooped up all their bald spots with some herbal salve.  After we did that I watched the pecky hen and she went over to peck at another hen and got herself a beak full of goop.  She was NOT happy.  She shook her head and goop flew everywhere.  She went to a different hen and did the whole process again.  ICK!  She was not liking this new sensation and gave up.  The plan seems to have worked.  However, yesterday was chilly so the chickens spent almost the whole day in the coop and I was unable to see if the pecky hen is still deterred by the goop or back at it again.  And whether or not I think we need to re-goop them.

We are giving them plenty of food, clean water, kitchen scraps, and of course their new living situation isn’t  over-crowded.  So I am hoping that over the next month or two we will see a good change in their condition and they wont be so ragamuffiny anymore.  (by the way, spell check picked up the second time I said ragamuffiny, but not the first….interesting…)

Does anyone have any other suggestions to help de-ragamuffin my hens?

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