Ilana, a Buff Orpington, is the stereotypical youngest child even though she was the second to begin laying. I assume she's the youngest of the older flock because it's clear she's at the bottom of the pecking order. She is always the last to eat, stepping back so the other girls get the choicest picks, and she gets scolded and pecked by the others if there's a tussle over a special treat like a worm, collard green, or piece of fruit. Ilana is the most intolerant of the pullets. She's taken on the responsibility of watching the younger girls, obsessively tracking their whereabouts, and ensuring observance of her strictly drawn territorial boundaries with bullish pecks and loud, rather scary squawks. She is also the flock crier, announcing all entries into the nest and arrivals of eggs. Like a lot of youngest children, she appears to get bored easily, often venturing off to a different area of the chicken yard while the others are still eating.
Avigal, the other Buff Orpington, is more laid back. She's a mix of middle child and oldest child, being the larger of the 2 Orpingtons and the third to lay an egg. Like many middle children, Avigal is a negotiator. She is the only chicken of the 4 to lay her eggs outside the nest, instead choosing to lay them directly next to it, where they are still protected by the coop. I believe the habit began the day she laid her first egg when she had to make an urgent compromise because Shoshanah was doing her requisite nest hogging. Unlike Shoshanah, Avigal is quick and matter of fact when it comes to laying her eggs. She goes in, does her business, and is usually done in about 10 minutes. While she appreciates all egg compliments, she doesn't need them, and she's figured out that it's much more comfortable to do her egg laying in the cooler early morning hours before the sweltering Florida heat intrudes. She almost always lays the first egg of the day.
Peninah, the smaller Australorp, is a bit more independent and willing to take risks than the other girls, characteristic of middle and youngest children, respectively. She's the chicken responsible for discovering that she can easily scale the poultry fence and forage for food in my vegetable beds if she jumps/flies onto the top of the baby chicken hutch. It's become routine for me to open the fence every morning to let Peninah into the chicken yard. I don't have to say a thing. She heads silently for the fence as soon as she sees me with the breakfast tray. While more shy and standoffish than the other hens when we first brought them home, Peninah's become more talkative and affectionate as she's gotten older and has taken to standing on my lap for afternoon treats. She's a touch self-conscious about her egg laying and usually heads bashfully to a neutral corner of the chicken yard during Ilana's boisterous egg announcements.
Though the chickens are a recent addition to our budding urban homestead, they have quickly become part of the family. Without realizing it, my husband and I have incorporated the girls into our daily routines, Mickey feeding the dogs in the morning, me feeding the girls. And just as the dogs are a source of joy in our lives, the girls stir up the same feelings of affection and amusement. I'm so glad we made the decision to raise them.