It looks like I will have to change the banner picture for Coop de Kitchen. Sadly, while I was away, we lost two of our hens. Butch, our black & white barred-Plymouth Rock hen, was killed by an unknown predator. Margaret found her dead the following morning underneath a bush, opposite the yard from the coop (having missed the absence because she came home from work after sunset, the night before). The other birds were safe in their hen house, and Margaret didn’t think they witnessed Butch’s demise. About a week later, without any apparent reason, Penny dropped dead. There was no sign of injury or anything of that sort. The only clue was that she was wandering about in a strange manner the day before, while Margaret was putting the hens into their coop for the night. The next morning, Penny was dead in the hen house.
We have no good explanation for Penny’s death–except for one strange hunch. Explanation: Among the four hens, Butch was the alpha hen at the top of the pecking order. Wherever she went, the others followed. If there was food to be found, Butch was always there first. Nonetheless, there was a subtle division in the flock between the Ameraucanas, Edie and Henny, and the odd two of Butch and Penny (Rhode Island Red). Birds of a feather flock together, as it has been said.
Anyway, it was clear that Butch and Penny were “running mates.” Anytime Margaret happened to forget to close the back door to the garage, one could expect that Butch, with Penny close behind, would wander through and into the kitchen. To their delight, they quickly discovered the cat food. The first time, it didn’t take much for Margaret to shoo them back outside. The second time, all Butch did was eat faster. In these forays, it was only Penny who was partner-in-crime. The Ameraucana sisters were usually absent.
I think, at this point, my drift should be fairly obvious: We have this odd feeling that Penny might have died from some kind of “broken flock” syndrome. At first, the rest of the birds seemed a bit rudderless without Butch, the alpha hen. After a while, it seemed as if they were beginning to make it on their own. However, it would be safe to suggest that Edie and Henny always had their own routine. Though fairly docile, Penny was always kind of high-strung. It wouldn’t surprise me if she came to find herself as being alone without Butch–which can be a devastating thing for a bird as social as a chicken. Most sellers of chicks will sell no less than two for that very same reason. So, in a sense, it might be possible that Penny died of a broken heart. Very sad, indeed!