We have a little hen, Elsa. I say little – she’s not really that much smaller than our other ISA Browns, but she is certainly special.
She is much tamer than our other 4 hens for a start. She’ll happily lie down and let you stroke her and stroke her until her eyes close and she nods off. It really is quite endearing. She lies down quite a lot! While the other 4 are on the march around the garden catching frogs, worms, and lifting their skirts to run after almost invisible insects, Elsa sleeps.
She’s never laid an egg, despite being the same age as the other ISA browns, who have been laying every day for the past few weeks. I doubt she will ever lay. We think that she has some kind of balance issue. If she walks too quickly, or if you pick her up and put her down, she tips over onto her face. She quickly picks herself up again, but she does seem to have difficulty staying upright – hence her nickname – Tippy. And she’ll sit down at any opportunity. She eats, and preens herself, and drinks, and seems happy in every way, but something isn’t quite right with her.
We’ve heard tales of how the weak one of the flock can often be picked on by other hens. With Elsa it seems to be the contrary. The other hens appear to take it in turns to “keep an eye” on Elsa. If she is snoozing, there is usually one of the other hens not too far away, sometimes snuggled right up next to her. We’ve even seen them preening her.
We’re not sure what is wrong with her, but we noticed once we bought her home that her beak wasn’t quite as well developed as the others. We’re wondering if she was perhaps pecked or attacked when she was just a small chick. Even if she never lays, she’s welcome to live out her life pecking at the grass and eating whatever we feed her. And she does tuck it away! Her crop is always full when she goes off up the ladder to bed at night. We just have to keep a special eye on her as she is vulnerable to attack from the likes of stoats and other predators. The stoat has already had a go at her, but fortunately Stevan wasn’t too far away and managed to whisk her out of harms way.
To be honest, if she never lays we’ve still got plenty of eggs to keep us fed!
Our google searches as to what may be the problem with her have come up blank. So if there is anyone out there who recognises this issue, do let me know. We’d love to know if there is something we could or should be doing to keep her comfortable.