The Stranger Hen: A Story for Humans

Posted by jlubans on June 22, 2018

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Caption: Henny alone in her new digs.


I’ve written of roosters and wild turkeys to illustrate human behavior, especially in the workplace. While humans display compassion more than most other subjects in the animal kingdom, there are times when we are less than compassionate in how we treat the less able or the strange.
I have another story.
This one is about how a stranger hen is treated by an established flock of chickens and their rooster.
Let’s call her Henny, like in Henny Penny,
A couple months ago, a friend dropped Henny off at my daughter’s farm.
The friend had too many chickens and was downsizing; the options were the freezer or a new home. The friend chose the latter much to Henny’s delight.
Since coming to her new home, I have seen a distinct disdain among the flock to welcoming Henny.
Indeed, the hostile behavior – if Henny gets close, one hen or another will rush at her - continues to this day.
The rooster is aloof, neither showing support or hostility. But, his passive behavior may actually be moderating the flock's behavior, which could be much worse.
Somehow Henny manages.
Henny is most often alone, out back of the farm buildings, scratching for food.
As you see from the photo she is neither henpecked nor malnourished, and I do not see her moping. She is clear-eyed and minds her own business. Yet, I wonder.
In the last few days I have seen something like a rapprochement, détente, or a peace treaty in the works. Maybe a thaw in the relationship. Henny's gotten within a foot of some hens without a flare up.
We’ll see.
Like the new kid in school, unless someone reaches out and befriends him or her, the new kid may get the cold shoulder or worse from classmates. Ditto for the workplace. Someone different may not be welcomed and unless a leader offers tacit or explicit support, those that dislike the stranger might make life miserable for that person.
Of course, there are leaders who want the newbie to show his/her mettle in dealing with unpleasant people. “Don’t come crying to me!” Is this leader’s unstated norm when bullying behaviors occur. Deal with it!
Henny is.
An effective leader’s role, like that of the rooster, may be to control the most negative behavior until a firmer relationship can be built; until strangeness becomes familiar.
In the meantime, I toss Henny a few scraps every day, out of sight of the other chickens.
Maybe a little human kindness will help.

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© Copyright John Lubans 2018
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