A lowly chicken is visited by a fairy godmother – and her life is transformed!

C inderella Chicken – not an odd-sounding recipe, but a phenomenon in the chicken world. You know the old fairy tale of course – Cinderella starts off living a miserable life as an unpaid cleaner with a couple of ghastly female relatives who bully her. Then, due to a frankly unlikely encounter with a shape-shifting sorceress called a fairy godmother, who turns a couple of innocently bystanding mice into bewigged footmen and messes with the genetic code of a pumpkin, Cinderella goes off to the big local do where she has a marvellous time despite losing a shoe and being unable to tell the time. Anyway, one thing leads to another, the local bigwig realises what a splendid looking woman she is and she lives Happily Ever After as a rich important lady and never has to clean another pan or be bullied again.

One of my hens underwent a similar transformation. Brown Chicken was hatched out here with us, and right from the start was beaten up and bullied by her clutch-mates. I’ve no idea why everyone took against her so much – she was a good size and perfectly healthy, but for some reason everyone picked on her and she became thin and unhappy. One day, however, she had a fairy godmother experience (obviously without the mice, pumpkins or shoes – come off it, she is a chicken) and from that moment on life got better for her. She was no longer bullied, the cockerel welcomed her into his flock and she is now enjoying a life of ease and luxury, free from bullying and whatever the hen equivalent of scrubbing pans is.

The reason for this is simple, and no vegetables or rodents were harmed in the process. Brown Chicken had been at the bottom of the pecking order, that draconian chicken class system which decides the exact status of every chicken in the group. Once a hen’s pecking order position has been decided, it is difficult for her to move even one place upwards, as the other hens are understandably reluctant to lose their own status. The one thing that can radically change this is if a new batch of hens arrives – either hatched out or bought in. This is what happened to Brown Chicken. Two large broods of chicks were born last year, and Brown Chicken quickly became dominant over them while they were small. This behaviour stayed with the chicks so that, even when they were grown up and several were bigger than Brown Chicken, they had learned that they were inferior to her and never challenged her. So, Brown Chicken – you SHALL go to the ball.

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