Bertha came to us through the mail along with 24 other baby chicks in the fall of 2006. There was nothing special about her that made her stand out from the rest of the Rhode Island Reds. It turned out that 15 of the flock were roosters so off they went to a sanctuary farm where they could grow and fight, and fight some more. We kept one rooster, different from the rest, special in his own right as he was an Americunna. As the years passed and the hen flock began to whither down, Big Bertha began to take her place at the top of the pecking order. She had grown to a mighty size compared to the rest. In some people’s eyes she was perfect for the dinner table but it was too late, she had a name and that made her a pet. Four years and the remaining four hens began to lay sporadically. We have wondered if the lack of egg laying caused her to loose her mind.
The dreadful day came and like a lightening bolt, Big Bertha perched, spread her wings and suddenly pounced on Beulah (second in the pecking order). She dug her claws into Beulah’s back and clamped down on her large floppy cone and stretched her legs, pulling and ripping as hard as she could. Beulah squawked in pain and tried to run, but she was helpless, Big Bertha had her under her grasp and would not let go. Out of no where came a boot that caught Big Bertha in the side and flung her like a rag doll across the yard. The attack was over, Beulah stood helpless as most of her cone was gone and the blood spewed like a water fountain.
It took hours for the blood to finally stop but Beulah survived. As for Big Bertha-she was quarantined to another part of the coop until it was time to reintegrate her. If you separate the aggressor, she will fall in the pecking order. Big Bertha was re-introduced two weeks later and immediately she attacked another hen. Perhaps she didn’t understand the purpose of separation. She just needed a little extra time. Two more weeks later and she attacked again.
No one knows why Big Bertha went off the deep end. She had a pretty good chickhood, she was well liked by her peers and Rufus the rooster certainly favored her. Perhaps it was the egg laying stigma that she could not bear, perhaps it was that floppy cone of Beulah’s that reminded her of a wiggly worm. Whatever it was, there is no redemption, her isolation is permanent and her lonesome state has brought her disgrace. She will be allowed to live out her life in the “cooler”, unless of course she attacks me, then I will personally grab the stewpot and make it her new home.
(C) 2011 Vickie VanAntwerp