In November my friend Marion (those of you who are regular readers of this blog might remember that she is often at the root of new animal acquisitions here at Fair Winds,) called me. She explained that one of her customers had lost all but one Silky chicken to predators over a span of time. That one chicken had befriended a couple of goats, so she was not without companionship, but then the goats fell prey to some horrible fate and the chicken was alone in the world. My friend had offered to try to integrate the bird into her flock, but then remembered that her birds are not one bit welcoming to strangers. So you know who ended up with the chicken, right? Me.
Silky chickens are adorable,but basically useless. They are not known to be good egg layers, and though their black-skinned flesh is a delicacy in Asia, they are so small it hardly seems worthwhile to put one in a pot.
The one I took in is a lovely gray-blue color. Her feet are covered in feathers, and she is fluffy where other chickens are sleek. She is also tiny, less than half the size of my hens. I introduced her slowly, letting her live in a dog crate inside the coop, where everyone could see each other but no bullying could take place. After few days I let her out. She quickly scuttled out the door and under the coop. That was her routine for months. I'd open the coop in the morning, she'd run out like the place was on fire, and hang out alone in the cold dark space till dusk, when she'd go back in with the other birds. Of course I put food and water out for her, but it made me sad that she was such a loner.
Then, over the last few weeks I've noticed her staying with the flock more often. She was not in such a rush to get outside in the morning, and if I went out to check on the birds during the day, she was often in the coop. It made me happy to see her finally acclimating with the group. But she still kept to herself more than the other birds.
At night chickens like to roost, and my birds have two nice big log perches to settle in on. They tend to roost wing by wing with their favorite friends from the flock. Don't laugh...they do have friends that they prefer to be with! Unlike the big birds,the Silky, who I call "Feather," has tucked herself into a nest box on the floor to sleep every night. I'd look in to count beaks before I locked things up and there she'd be, a fluffy dark smudge in the nest box.
Until tonight! During beak check and feeding I gasped to see the little midge up on a high roost, snuggled next to one of the Partridge Rock hens. She looked quite smug up there, and it made me happy to see her. A real part of the flock at last.