It's been about five months since this picture was taken, and in that time our hens have Grown Up.
Given that the hens look very much alike (which is why we named them all "Minerva Louise", since we can't tell them apart anyhow), it is difficult to say for sure that the chick pictured above is the same bird as the hen pictured below......but surely you understand why I think that they are, in fact, the same bird.
The size and color of a hen's comb indicates her status, i.e. the level of bossiness you can expect from her. Some of our hens have combs so large that the top edge is beginning to flop over, much like large Texas Hair towards the end of a strenuous prom night. These are also the fattest of our Ladies. These largest, brightest-colored hens are the Alpha hens, the chickens who, if they were human, would dominate discussions at the PTA and the Sunday School planning committee.
At feeding time, the hens with the largest tiaras are waiting at the door, ready to trample any of their smaller-crowned sisters on the way through the lunch line.
If these hens were ladies, they would be the bringers of the largest, sweetest, most elaborate cupcakes for kindergarten birthdays, and the drivers of the most heavily-bumper-stickered minivan in the entire lot at Costco, and the ladies who push to the front of the line at those predawn after-Thanksgiving sales at the mall.
That would be these large-combed hens, if only we would allow them to drive.
They cackle the loudest, and hop the highest, and always claim to have laid the largest eggs in the nest box.
The smaller-combed hens are much more reticent.These small-crowned hens aren't as flashy as their sisters, but they are the chickens most likely to catch a mosquito, should the bug be foolish enough to fly into the chicken tractor. The small-combed hens know that they are second-class citizens, but they also know that the food here is plentiful,
...and while the larger birds are off in a corner squabbling over a some delicious dainty, there will be lots of tomato stems and zucchini seeds and corncobs left to stuff into their somewhat smaller faces.
We think that all hens, regardless of the size and brilliance of the tiara, are beautiful. Most beautiful of all, of course, are the eggs they give us each day.
Some days there are three eggs, some days there are six. Last Sunday there were eight! All the eggs are beautiful, and delicious, and we are grateful to have them.
AN UPDATE ON ML XIIMinerva Twelve's injuries from her various "digging out" adventures were ugly. She scraped not only the feathers and hide off of her head while trying to escape one afternoon, she actually debrided her flesh all the way down to her skull on the top of her head. It was a very ugly injury, and we had low expectations for her ability to survive, especially since she continued to dig out and escape from St Hens every few days, thus making herself more vulnerable to attack by foxes, coyotes and hawks.
We figured that infection would get her if the owls didn't get her first.
So far, we figured wrong. After nearly a month, Twelve's injuries are steadily healing.
Her skin is regrowing, and there's quite a lot less bare skull visible on top of her head. She is still living in St Hens with a very mild, small-combed hen we call Eleven. Eleven is always waiting for the food bucket in the mornings, and most days Twelve will stay caged long enough to breakfast with her gentle friend.
Life is good, for us and for our Minervas.