Melissa is a slightly different breed to Zara, she is a Buff Partridge Pekin Bantam. Buff means the colouring, other colours available that I know of are Red, White and Lavender. The biggest difference that you can’t fail to love are the feathers on their feet, like little socks.
Melissa is a pale Buff and once a year she will lose her feathers and look quite bald and almost sickly as her carcass underneath is tiny. The first time this happened we actually were quite concerned and took her to the vets. I had seen moulting in hens before but she was so withdrawn and would hide away from everyone. Almost embarrassed about her appearance. She would have also felt the cold more. When their feathers start to grow they look a little like a hedgehog as they are lathered with what appear to be spikes. Then at the tips you can just see new feathers beginning to sprout. Once the regrowth is over their coats appear much darker and lighten as the weeks progress. If they were kept indoors their coats would remain the darker colour. Melissa is a free range hen so spends all her time out doors apart from dusk when she’ll return to her pen.
Melissa is very much in charge of the group and until Pop (the cockerel) arrived she would rally everyone around making sure no one strayed too far. She would run after a hen if they had found a juicy worm and taught the others that any bird in the garden/field should be frightened off so as not to eat their food. This I’m sorry to say was quite a sight to see as their bodies would rock from side to side as they ran at birds. At dusk however she would always without fail be the first to bed ‘Come on ladies, time for bed’. A few minutes later the other hens would follow suit.
She was a fantastic mother and looked after her chicks really well. There were quite often Buzzards flying ahead, we were a little apprehensive about this as a chick would be a tasty meal. However we knew that we had to let Melissa outside to graze with her chicks. One particular day we heard the most terrifying screeching sound, never heard anything like it. I ran outside to see a buzzard just taking off from the garden. Having abandoned her babies Melissa was at the Buzzards heels with her feathers all fluffed out looking extremely aggressive. I looked around for her chicks, they were hiding under the potato leaves and all accounted for – phew! What a great mother.