We had a chat to Kirstie, our Animal Welfare coordinator. She told us all about the chickens, and why she has a soft spot for Purple Ring. 

First, she gave us a bit of background about the flock:

"We have a group of 14 chickens, including 6 rescue hens who came to Ferring Country Centre in the Spring of 2019".

Kirstie first noticed Purple Ring because "she was so skinny, very underweight, but still very friendly. None of the other rescue chickens were friendly at all, they were frightened".

This was at a time where the chickens still shared an enclosure with the ducks and turkeys (just before the plans for our fantastic duck pond were set in motion!).

Purple Ring tended to hang around people much more than the other hens.

Purple Ring got her name because of the dark purple ring around her ankle. All the chickens have rings around their ankles - like little bracelets, so that the staff can tell the chickens apart, and monitor their health and wellbeing.

Kirstie started to give Purple Ring some extra food, including live worms! Kirstie admitted that this might be part of the reason Purple Ring has become so confident and friendly. 

When Purple Ring was looking rather scruffy, (yes, even scruffier than she is now!), we used to have cockerels as well as hens. Kirstie told us that cockerels tend to pick their favourite hens, and only mate with them. Purple Ring was a firm favourite amongst her male counterparts... This was part of the reason she lost quite so many feathers,. Kirstie suggested that Purple Ring was loved by the cockerels and hated by the hens because of her 'sass'. 

Our farm team felt sorry for Purple Ring, and as soon as the ducks relocated to their fantastic new pond, and the turkeys were put into a separate enclosure, Purple Ring started gaining weight. The chicken enclosure was also made into more of a natural environment, with hanging enrichments added. 

If you have visited Dales Farm in recent months, you might have noticed that our chickens are now free to wander around the Centre and meander where they please. This is because they are now recall trained and can be trusted with they independence, so long as they return at 3:30 for their dinner!

Purple Ring proved to be a quick learner, as she quickly picked up the recall training. She isn't timid at all, and will be the first to come running back for treats in the afternoon. 

Despite Purple Ring's intellectual ability, people were quick to comment on her Ugly Duckling-like appearance. However, the vet has confirmed that although she does not, and may not ever have a particularly full or impressive plumage, she is well on her way to being a healthy chicken once more. In fact, Purple Ring is now wearing her very own saddle! As shown in the photos, it looks a lot like a jacket, and will help to protect her feathers from the general wear and tear of the pecking order. 

Now that Purple Ring is healthier, she's embracing her status as an independent chick. she's really flown the coop - so to speak. Despite this, Purple Ring still loves a cuddle, leaning into Kirstie and shutting her eyes when she's being stroked, or even hopping on Kirstie's leg!

In fact, Purple Ring has even climbed the hierarchy. She'll have her dinner first and tell the others off if they come near it! When she comes in at night, she always has a full crop, which means she's eaten lots of bugs and grass; a natural behaviour. 

Purple Ring has had a huge turn around, and is a much happier, healthier hen. She's certainly one sassy chick!