The Chicken Election Finally Comes to a Head

The chicken election has been a tumultuous affair. Ever since head hen Paris was culled, ending her somewhat tyrannical reign, the caucus has been in disarray without an elected hen leader. We return to the election trail shortly.

But first, an introduction to the youngest members of the flock, the chosen ones from 2020 spring hatching.

I kept numbers tight because there are also hens to factor in. Three of the hens are untested in hatching: Ninja, Jacinda and Judith. If I wasn’t pregnant I would have hatched some eggs from them by now to check for certain things. I had to be stern with myself not to undertake such things at this time. Not even a few eggs. Ninja is Winston Cheepers’ full sister out of Chippee Hackee and Tiggywinkle. She returned to us in spring from her city home. The reason I originally passed her by was because of her colouring, which is too light blue with some dark feather leakage and because she was potentially tainted with the red feather scandal. However, she has been healthy, a great layer and she does have some good features. What tipped me to keeping her in the harsh culling round is her long and not-too-tall comb, which is a feature that can balance out my chickens with combs that are too short and high, and the fact that I lost Winston Cheepers, who had such a lovely rounded tail. I’m curious to see how her offspring turn out. Winston Cheepers did not throw any offspring with red feathers, so I am quite confident that we have settled things from the Chippee Hackee line.

Jacinda and Judith were too young for breeding in spring, not physiologically, but in terms of best practice. They are the daughters of Mr Anderson and Duchess. Duchess was a good-looking hen who I was rather fond of, but she was rehomed due to the possibility of being caught up in the red feather scandal too. I didn’t want any loose ends and she was the most likely culprit. Well, until I realised that the red-feather-bearing cockerel might not have been her son after all, but could have accidentally been Frodo’s, the known red-feather-gene carrier… These two hens have good blue colouring from Duchess’ line and I am extremely eager to hatch eggs from them to see if any red feathers pop up. I really hope they are clear, because they have some good genetics to add to the breeding pool. For now, I just have to be patient.

Now, we return to the election coverage, with a recap and a final result.

As Winston Cheepers negotiated with certain hens, a few frontrunners for Prime Henister emerged.

The Beatrix Potter party, consisting of Tiggywinkle and Jemima, was headed up by Tiggywinkle. Tiggywinkle made it clear that she wanted the top job but fractions started to appear in their strong relationship when Jemima thought she deserved a crack at leadership. Tiggywinkle made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with Todd when she was put into the pen with him. Winston Cheepers seemed to know how to bring out the best in her. Todd was ousted fairly early on.

Frodo, while well-respected for her seniority in years, was content to be near the top, but lacked the desire for overall leadership.

Morpheus emerged as a frontrunner when her feistiness during broody periods morphed into a general respect for, or fear of, her amongst the others at all times. Her sidekick in the Matrix Party, Trinity, liked to stick her beak in everything but didn’t dare try to surpass Morpheus.

Jenny Cheeply was a noisy and active campaigner. She had a lot to say but I’m not sure how many were listening. Helen Cluck put Winston Cheepers in his place for a while but ultimately didn’t hold much sway in light of the other hens, especially since she kept taking herself out of the ring to go broody.

Jacinda and Judith were the young up-and-comers, highly regarded by Winston Cheepers but really not ready for rolling with the big guns.

As an election was drawing close, I threw things into tumult, delaying the election. Many little hatchlings started to appear. Then some campaigners started to disappear. The chicken population boomed and it was every chicken for themselves for a while. Winston Cheepers continued discussions with various factions, refusing to reveal who he would prefer to work with, until his demise.

Then chickens started to disappear again. As the population waned and some of the newcomers settled into flock life, the campaign heated up again. Winston Cheepers, the kingmaker, may be gone but his son, Jack of Spades, was whipping everyone into shape and testing out allegiances.

The election was called once again. It became clear that Tiggywinkle and Morpheus were in the lead, going head-to-head. Who was going to come out on top? The hens were moulting all-over-the-place and in no mood for alliances. Morpheus went broody again, then returned. Her periods of broodiness did nothing to diminish the reputation she had built. Then Tiggywinkle came down with sour crop and had to be removed to hospital.

Whilst there, it was revealed that Tiggywinkle’s health had been declining for a while. She had tried to cover it up with the excuse of moulting and disdain at being forced into an alliance with Todd, but suddenly her lack of laying and lack of vigour in her offspring were drawn into question.

After treatment, Tiggywinkle returned to the flock. Everybody was on the edge of their seats, on high alert. Morpheus was eyeballing Tiggywinkle, lining her up for a fight. But Jack of Spades made it clear that he would not tolerate brawling in the birdhive. Surprisingly, neither hen started a fight. Morpheus, however, was so put out by the return of her rival that she started to crow, not like a rooster, but like a crow bird: “CAAAAHH!” Jack of Spades and his sidekick, Sage, were busy trying to keep the caucus under control. Everybody was talking. Everybody was waiting.

Everyone is on high alert. Tiggywinkle (black hen in the centre) has reappeared. Morpheus (black hen at the front) makes herself as tall as possible and they eyeball each other until Jack of Spades comes over and says, “Yeah, well I’m taller!”

Then came the most shocking twist of events. Tiggywinkle became unwell again. Her performance over the last year was called into question and thoroughly investigated. There had been rumours of inadequacy before, especially in light of the results of her offspring, only one pullet of which made it to the final cut, but I was reluctant to take the action that was necessary. Tiggywinkle was one of my founding hens from one breeder. Admittedly, she was the next chicken on my cull list for the above reasons, but at the time I could not bear to make that call. It seems my opinions of what had become of her were well-founded though. I had already culled her daughter, Trinity, for the lack of health in her offspring, even though she herself appeared healthy, yet I was accepting double-standards for Tiggywinkle.

It’s probably as well that I’m pregnant, with less than 2 months to go, because that helped me make one of the hardest culls. I’m not in a place to be continuously treating a chicken or keeping her around just because. It is hard shifting towards culling the less healthy chickens or the ones who produce less healthy offspring, but I am learning to trust my observations and analysis more. Seeing the likes of Frodo, Jemima and Morpheus, and their offspring, do well gives me the motivation to continue to aim for a more sustainable, hardy flock of chickens. The contrast between the offspring of Jemima and Morpheus vs Tiggywinkle and Trinity is interesting. Morpheus is Jemima’s daughter. It’s no accident that the two cockerels I have now are sons of Jemima and Morpheus. They have got Tiggywinkle genes through Winston Cheepers though, so I am very curious to see the results of the next breeding season.

With all breeding tangents aside, the election results are now final. The chickens have a newly elected head hen: Morpheus. She used her bouts of dragon-lady broodiness to build a fierce reputation among her peers and juniors. She isn’t a bully like Paris was, yet she will not tolerate others getting in her way. It will be interesting to see how she works with young Jack of Spades and where Sage figures into the equation. Sage has been extremely compliant thus far, and gets along very well with Jack of Spades. But what exactly is his plan? Only time will tell.

Jack of Spades with new head hen, his mother, Morpheus (who is probably disgruntled about having a photo shoot in the middle of undignified moulting).

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