Chicken Matriarchs

Some of my feathered ladies are showing their age.

Barnyard relationships and temperaments shift and change, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the transformation of my six oldest hens.  They started out as mean girls, but have mellowed into matriarchs.


Scarlett has always been right in the thick of all the barnyard activities.

They are no longer pacing the floor of the coop when I open the door in the mornings. They’re still on the roost, seem a bit miffed I’ve bothered them and take their good sweet time hopping down to check out the morning treats in the run.  The roosters, Napoleon and Big Man go into the coop to say good morning and make sure everyone is ok.  Being good roosters, they sound their “come over here and look at these treats” clucks to the ladies.  I think there’s some eye rolling among the hens at this sweet behavior.  “We found the treats just fine before you got here, thank you very much!” they seem to say.


Sarah has always been a wallflower. She was born with that fierce look. I do miss her pretty blue/green eggs.

These ladies take care of each other.  They are almost always close together in the barnyard.  The afternoons are spent doing a little dust bathing, scratch/peck scratch/peck repeat, and casting disparaging glances at the young hens flying back and forth over the fence into the yard.

This is their favorite afternoon hangout spot.  They allow Jasmine to join them.

This is their favorite afternoon hangout spot. They allow Jasmine to join them.

They have told the roosters in no uncertain terms they are not interested in relationships. The roosters, after attempting to woo them and getting spectacularly smacked down every time they tried, don’t try anymore.   They are not stupid.

Cindy Lou

Cindy Lou would never win a pleasant personality competition, but I still love her.

In their youth, I spent a great deal of time and effort intervening in their pecking order, trying to keep the mean girls in line.  Maude and Cleopatra had to wear pinless peepers in the early days to curtail their unkind behavior.  Now, they’re moving slowly and they’re much more accepting of each other and the youngsters in the barnyard.


Maude has always been close to the top of the pecking order.  She still is, just nicer.

I wonder what their sisters would be like if they had lived to this ripe old age.  Scout, Thelma, Louise and Hermione—we miss ya.

Only Cleopatra gives me eggs at this point.  I miss Maude’s petite pink one, shades of blue and green from Scarlett and Sarah, and the sturdy brown ones from Aretha and Cindy Lou. They gave me so many beautiful eggs.  In some barnyards these ladies would already be in the soup pot.  Not here. No way.

In the evening, they head to bed before anyone else, sometimes even before their treats are scattered.  They walk deliberately towards the coop, their posture a little stooped.  I swear they look tired.


Aretha had a very late molt. She’s not quite back to her full beauty, yet.

As I was taking photos today, I felt a tiny peck on the back of my leg.  I turned around expecting Lucy—she’s always trying to get my attention.  But it was Cleopatra.  Totally out of character for her.  She looked like she wanted to say something.  I said, “Pretty girl, thank you for the egg you laid today.  I appreciate it.”  She cocked her head, looked me straight in the eye and gave me a few quiet clucks.


Cleopatra is sitting tall and proud, living up to her name.

So here’s to Aretha, Maude, Cleopatra, Scarlett, Sarah and Cindy Lou.  You girls got me started on this crazy journey.  I will take care of you on the rest of yours.  I’m looking forward to it.

All ten of them as babies.  My, how time flies.

All ten of them as babies. My, how time flies.

(Shared at Down Home HopHomestead Blog HopBackyard Farming Connection, Tuesdays With A Twist, Maple Hill HopThank Goodness It’s MondayClever ChicksSimple Saturdays, Farmgirl FridayFrom the Farm, Fabulous Friday, Old-Fashioned Friday, Little House FridayHomeAcre Hop and Simple Lives Thursday)


  1. Oh my what a sweet post. Such lucky ladies to have you.
    kim recently posted…smiling tree

  2. In “One Man’s Meat,” E.B. White writes something like: Professional farmers tell me I must cull. There will be no culling in this house. The hens, having done their part, May lie about feasting and roistering until their days are over, and I say good on them.

    Good on you, and on your girls.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this post and requested the E.B. White book from my library that Sally quoted from. I am also in total agreement – long live my ladies without threat of culling!

  4. Also in that E.B. White book is an essay called “Memorandum.” It is laugh-out-loud funny for people who have animals, gardens, and seemingly endless chores . The essay can also be found in the October 2012 issue of Down East magazine. Good stuff!

  5. Oooooh I’m going to get that book too, sounds like good reading for the holidays! Thank you for the recommendation, Sally and Tia. I so agree, Joan – I live in what was and still is in parts quite a poor part of Italy where hens must be productive – once they stop laying they go in the pot. I do understand that perspective, but it won’t happen to mine. People here think I’m a little on the eccentric side (which is fine by me!) but we respect each other’s standpoints. 🙂
    Cath recently posted…Dec 9, A little chick with a white bum

  6. Sweet post! I have had a few ewes like that. 🙂 love the photos

  7. We have a flock of different breeds and they each have their own personality. I just love watching them go through their day!

  8. Aw Joan you are such a good chicken mama and your girls are lucky to have you. My older girls were still laying until their molt hit. It was a doozy and they are just now just finishing getting their feathers back. I’m hoping for more eggs but this will be their 4th year.

    Poor Goldie she has become the target of my roo, who is still trying to figure things out. He just chases her non stop and she runs screaming for most of the afternoon… I’ve intervened a few times to give her a break. The other girls seem to keep him backoff and the young ones, he isn’t interested? Fingers crossed things will settle down soon. Like you, my girls will live out their days with me when done laying. We’re buddies and gosh I’ve sure enjoyed their beautiful eggs over the years.
    Jen recently posted…The Ebb and Flow Of These Days…

  9. Love this! Our older girls are so fun to watch. They are so “mature”. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop! 🙂

  10. Lisa House says:

    I am new to chickens, I’ve had my girls for about 9 months. I never dreamed that chicken keeping could become an addiction for me but I just love interacting with them and have already started planning what chicks I will be getting this spring. So just wondering how old your matriarch girls are. How long do they typically live and lay eggs?

    • Thanks for stopping by! My ladies will be five years old this spring 🙂 Out of the six, three are still laying! My chicken vet says a good life span is around six years, but the internet says they can live much longer. Only time will tell!

  11. I came upon your page when I was doing a search on pinless peepers and how to deal with the mean girls in my flock. This post brought me to tears. I am almost at the end of my first year keeping chickens. I never would have thought I would be so attached to 7 hens. I’m looking forward to reading more on you page.

    • Welcome to The Chicken Mama, Terri! Once you really start watching chickens, how they relate to each other, what strong personalities they have…yep, I’m totally attached too. Good luck with those pinless peepers. They worked great for me 🙂