Muffie and Fluffie were two young hens who came to live with us after
being expelled from an elementary school hatching project. They were
said to be sisters, and they certainly looked a lot alike with their
pretty burnt-brown and white feathers and little pink combs. They
settled easily into the chicken house surrounded by a tomato garden
with Henry, our big white "broiler" rooster, and Henrietta, a young
white leghorn hen who had been found along the road as a chick.
Fluffie quickly established herself as the dominant hen for the first
few weeks, while Muffie stood around listlessly. Soon, however, Muffie
became as indefatigable a scratcher of the soil as Fluffie and Henrietta.
It was a treat to watch the three eager young hens scratching vigorously
among the red and green tomato plants with stolid Henry standing over
them and following them up and down the leafy rows on his huge yellow
Muffie, A Personality Profile
by Karen Davis
[Copied with permission from Humane Innovations and Alternatives.
Publication of PsyEta, P.O. Box 1297, Washington Grove, MD 20880.]
This happy time ended in the fall when Henry, who had great claws, gouged
Henrietta's sides in mounting her, the gouges became infected, and she
died. When I saw similar wounds starting to show under Fluffie's wings,
and noticed how quiet she was becoming, I reluctantly separated her and
Muffie from Henry by having a double enclosure built onto our kitchen.
From then on, Henry and the two hens had to take turns being out in the
Fluffie's wounds healed, but she never fully regained her liveliness,
which seemed rather to pass into Muffie, who would often disappear in
the woods for hours during the day, only to come charging over the grass
at dusk on her sturdy legs, all bright-eyed, after I had called and
called and felt sure she must have been killed.
Along with her new independence, Muffie showed an increasing solicitude
for Fluffie. They had always been close. In the early days, Muffie
had expressed a certain deference towards Fluffie that now seemed to
modify into her sense of Fluffie's weakened condition. She and Fluffie
often stood stock still together for long periods with their wings and
little rosebud faces touching like two warm brown flowers growing
side by side on the frosted lawn.
One day, I looked out the kitchen window and saw Muffie straddled on
top of Fluffie with her wings slightly extended over her against the
side of our house. I called my husband to come take a look at this
moving and yet disturbing scene. We saw it repeated several times
over the next few days. One late afternoon as I was getting ready
to go to the store and went outside to put Muffie and Fluffie in
for the night, I found them already in their house on the straw,
Fluffie drooping with her head and tail curved towards the ground
with Muffie motionless beside her. I took Fluffie to the doctor and
brought her home with medicine, but she died that same night in the
small bedroom where she and Muffie had sometimes liked to roost on
top of the bookcase in front of the big window overlooking the yard.
After Fluffie's death, Muffie stood planted for days in the exact
spot where Fluffie had last stood, drooping. Now, Muffie drooped
in her place. She no longer scampered into the woods or came
bursting into the kitchen to jump up on the sink and peck holes in
the sponge floating on the top of the dishwater. She was not
interested in me or in Henry, either, whom I let out to see if
the two of them could team up under my supervision. After two
weeks of this dejection, I said to my husband, "We must get Muffie
a new sister!"
That is how Petal, our placid hen with the dusky sweeping wings,
came to live with us. We adopted her from a sanctuary in Maryland
called Animal Rescue. The minute Petal appeared on the scene Muffie
lost all of her torpor and became a bustling "police miss," picking
on Petal and patrolling everything Petal did until finally, the two
hens became amiable, though they never became close the way Muffie
and Fluffie had been.
Muffie finally bonded in true friendship with our adopted turkey,
Mila. Right from the start, Muffie and Mila hit it off, sharing a
quiet bond of affection, foraging together and sometimes preening
each other very delicately. One of their favorite rituals took place
in the evenings when I changed their water and ran the hose in their
bowls. Together, Muffie and Mila would follow the tiny rivulets
along the ground, drinking as they went, Muffie darting and drinking
like a brisk brown fairy, Mila dreamily swaying and sipping, piping
her intermittent flute notes.
There were three roosters in Muffie's life--Henry, with whom she
socialized but was not particularly close, "gentleman" Jules, our
sweet black bantam rooster who became her laying partner and best
pal, and Clarence, a fiery white and gold young cock with fierce
bangs sprouting over his eyes, who surveyed his fields like Napoleon
and dodged the flock with his morsels like a football player with
the ball. In "A Streetcar Named Desire," Tennessee Williams evokes
the primal power and pride in the character of Stanley Kowalski by
comparing it to the power and pride of a "richly feathered male bird
among hens." This was Clarence, and Muffie became, in a way, his
Blanch DuBois, trembling at the advances of the "gaudy seedbearer"
whose fancy for her took the form of victorious chases through the
In the middle of her second winter with us, Muffie developed cancer
and died. She had always been spry, perching on just about anything
handy from the porch railing to the kitchen sink. She would fly up
from a little wooden bench in the chicken house to get to her roost
in the evenings. But a time came when she started sleeping on the
As Muffie's flight muscles deteriorated, so did her confidence. One
day, she was standing in the doorway when all of a sudden, Clarence
appeared, gleaming, behind the screen. Muffie shrank, and in trying
to escape, fluttered and fell helplessly over the ledge leading into
the kitchen. A few nights later, she was not on her bench, and I
finally found her cold, still, and amazingly small, lying on the bare
ground against the front of the house. I assumed she would die during
the night as I gently placed her on the bed where she had once laid
many of her eggs so peacefully, but the next day she was padding about
the house, somewhat chipper, eating and drinking.
From then on until she died, Muffie lived in the house. She would have
been happy to do so from the time, a year of so earlier, when she began
sweetly perching on the sofa arm where I sat reading or watching
television. Chickens are naturally sociable, and will gather around
a human companion and stand there serenely preening themselves or sit
quietly on the ground beside someone they trust. Muffie not only did
these things, but she also enjoyed being cuddled and held, the way
some chickens do. Others do not particularly like being picked up.
I held Muffie a lot. Occasionally I would take her with me in the
car, where at first she would always exercise her curiosity, looking
out the window and poking about the seats and floor. Finally she
would snuggle down next to me on the driver's seat for the rest of
the trip. To the end, she sat at my side, wherever we were, playing
our favorite old game of closing our eyes, half opening and then
closing them again. I can see her now, standing at my feet looking
straight up at me with her pretty pink comb and wistful little face
like a flower bud from the earth to which she returned.
Karen E. Davis, Ph.D.
United Poultry Concerns
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(Muffie, A Personality Profile)