Since Emerald and Speckles have become the only two bigger girls, amongst a flock of little girls, the dynamics of the flock have changed totally.
It has become a happier, quieter, more settled and harmonious flock. But it’s not just that, it has changed in some other, more surprising, ways. Emerald and Speckles have changed slightly. There are two things going on here but I will start with Speckles as it is easier to demonstrate with a few photos.
Speckles is acting like a mother hen with her babies around her. She appears to be treating the five little girls like her brood. She is often sitting in the middle with all the little girls around her.
Speckles is surrounded by her little flock
The little girls sit in a group around Speckles
Cinnamon is sitting behind Dandelion but you can’t see much of her as she is so small. Emerald is never far away but it is always Speckles at the centre of the group.
When I take in the treats Speckles calls the little girls over to the them. She makes that sound that they all make when they discover something good and cockerels do similar when they find a tasty titbit and want to share it with their girls. With Speckles though it is different to how she has been before. She gets very excited and keeps making the “here is a treat” sound over and over while making no attempt to take the treat herself. She waits until all the little girls are with her and are taking the treat before she will have a little herself.
She does this with the morning corn and bedtime sunflower hearts, whereas before she would have just joined in. Now she hardly touches the corn as she is so busy calling the little girls and watching over them. She appears to be behaving like a mother hen to her brood.
With Emerald it took us a while to even discover that her bit of behaviour belonged to her. During the summer we sleep with our bedroom windows wide open. We hear lots of noise from outside in the early hours of the morning. We hear the deer barking in the woods behind our property and the pheasants calling. We hear the noisy jackdaws and all the birds of the dawn chorus.
Then every morning at around five o’clock or soon after we would hear a strange cry that sounded a bit like a cockerel and yet not. It was a loud, sort of strangled sound, that we had never heard before. It had about five notes to it but it was more of a screech than a call. It would only come once or twice each morning. It sounded as if it came from something large. I said that it couldn’t be our girls because it was a sound that I had never heard before.
The family four doors away have two standard sized chickens and I wondered if it came from them but we were also convinced that it wasn’t a chicken sound. It was such a strange sound that my husband even wondered if it was from some sort of dog at one point. We puzzled over it for a few weeks.
Emerald is always the first to sound the alarm call if there is a cat in the garden and then all the other girls join in with her. Emerald will stand on one of the branch perches at the end of the run with her neck stretched and she will shout. We heard this commotion one day and went up to investigate. Just at that moment Emerald uttered the sound that we had been hearing. We saw and heard her do it twice.
Mystery solved. We couldn’t believe that the sound had come from her. We have had her for four years and have never heard her make this sound before. I wonder if she is taking on, a bit of a cockerel role, as the head of a flock of little girls.
The automatic door on the chicken shed opens at first light so the girls are out at about five o’clock during the height of summer which may explain why we were hearing the cry, at about that time, a bit like a cockerel crowing at dawn.
It may seem rather fanciful but it does seem like Emerald and Speckles have taken on a parental role with the little girls. They seem to be looking out for them. It is a far cry from the past battles and bullying that we have seen within the flock. It really does appear that Emerald and Speckles are in tune together as a pair looking after their flock of little girls.
It is all quite fascinating to see and I am really pleased to have a happy, harmonious, flock.