The Crime: At 6:51 this morning, a crow was heard in the vicinity of the coop. Upon approaching the coop, Complainant (me) realized that had she been 1 second earlier, she would have caught the crower in the act. As it was, however, she could not tell which of the chickens (who now sat there innocently awaiting their feed and water) had made the forbidden noise. Complainant waited a good ten minutes, delaying the start of her morning run, hoping to hear a repeat of the noise, but was unsuccessful. The suspects (see below) ate, drank, made many innocent sounding peeps, a few clucks, and settled down on the perch.
Further Evidence: On Monday morning, Rich gave testimony that he distinctly heard "rooster-like noises" coming from the coop area. Complainant and children kept a sharp ear all Monday for a repeat of the noise. Nothing was heard until this morning (see above).
#1. Attila the Hen (aka "Ally"):
Ally is a Bantan cochin with barred rock coloring. "She" was the first to feather out in the group, and she is the only one with fully developed comb and wattles already. She has never exhibited any herding or bossy behavior toward her companions. Ally was the first to start making a grown-up kind of chicken noise, letting out a choked bra-GAWK at least 2 weeks before anyone else started making that noise. Complainant has read online that barred rock females feather out much earlier than their male counterparts, therefore, she has always assumed that Ally was indeed a "she." But was all that feathering a carefully planned disguise?
#2. Jackie (aka "The Beast):
Jackie is a standard-size Partridge Cochin. Like Daisy (#3 below), she was acquired separately from the bantams, and spent her first week with another family. She was originally ordered from a mail order hatchery and is supposed to be a female (although I hear mistakes are occasionally made). Although she is the biggest out of the entire group, she is also probably the least bright and definitely the least popular. If chickens had mean girls like the ones in "Heathers," Jackie would be the Martha Dumptruck of the flock. Jackie never bosses anyone around and never leads; she is definitely a follower. But is all that meekness just a cover?
#3. Daisy (aka "Daisy Duck"):
Like Jackie, Daisy is a standard-size, acquired separately from the banties. She is a Buff Orpington, which have a reputation for being gentle and friendly. She is the only non-cochin in the flock, which means she is the only one with feet and legs that aren't feathery. Although she has never been observed to boss others around or even to peck anyone, it did seem as though she was making an early run for the top of the pecking order. She is often out in the front of the flock and others (particularly Audrey, #6 below) follow her around. lately, Daisy has been on the receiving end of pecking, particularly from Melanie (#4), but also from Lily (#5) and even Ally (#1). When she gets pecked, she lets out a loud honking type noise that makes her sound more like a duck or a goose than a chick. If Daisy were a rooster, why would she (he?) let these little bantams peck at her (him?) like that? Or is he (she) just waiting until he (she) is full grown rooster to fight back?
Melanie is a blue cochin bantam, and until recently, was generally believed to be the youngest of the flock because she was much smaller and her feathers took so long to come in. Now she is the same size and her feather development has caught up. Melanie has the fuzziest legs in the flock, making her look like she's wearing gray fuzzy harem pants. She's among the most daring of the group, always willing to come close to the humans and peck a shoe to see if it's edible. Melanie has lovely eyes and does not mind being held. She never showed any bossy behavior until about a week ago, when her apparent campaign to terrorize Daisy began. Recently, she has taken to sneaking up behind Daisy and goosing her in the tail, causing the big yellow bird to jump about a foot and honk and then run away. Is it just innocent pecking order fun, part of a coup d'etat ... or rooster behavior?
Lily is a black cochin bantam. At first, she was thought to be Melanie's sister, but they have developed at very different rates so that seems unlikely. She now makes the same bra-GAWK noises as Ally, but is way behind Ally in comb and wattles. She is never the first to go anywhere or to get anything, so she is probably fairly low in the pecking order. She has never shown any aggressive tendencies, although lately she has sometimes participated in Melanie's torture of Daisy. When she was very little, she enjoyed being held in human hands and actually sought out being held on some chilly evenings in early June. Now, she remains one of the easiest to catch and pick up. She has the posture of a female, but her neck feathers are very shiny black and may be pointy like a male's. Is her gentle demeanor just an attempt to throw off our suspicions?
The Complainant is very afraid to report that this chicken is the one she suspects the most, because this one is one of her favorites. This was the chick that she first picked to bring home. The lady at the farm where we got the bantams picked this one up and gave her to Complainant to hold, and Audrey hunkered down and went to sleep in Complainant's hand, melting her heart. Audrey is smart and audacious (according to Mathboy), assertive but not aggressive. She has never shown any herding tendencies. But she does look very different from the rest of the flock, with her feathery cheeks and her upright tail. She is the only chick who has not been heard to do any bra-GAWKing, still peeping like a songbird. Although said farm lady thought Audrey was a partridge, further research has persuaded us that she is an Ameraucana, which is pretty cool. (Go here and click on the picture on the far right in the top row. That's Audrey, all right.)
Investigatory Intentions: Since it seems to be difficult to get out there by the coop early enough to find out who is the culprit, the chicken detectives (us, in case you were wondering), plan to separate one chicken per night and make that one sleep in the brooder box in the garage. The thought is that, eventually, we will find one that greets the dawn with a crow and it should be easy to hear it if it is coming from the garage.
Could Audrey be the one? Is there only one? Stay tuned.