Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rooster troubles...

I will try to be sensitive... but this post may not be for everyone.

I've been having some rooster troubles.  For about the last year, there have been two roosters in the barnyard.
They followed several happy years, where their father, had kept a very peaceable barnyard.  He was a stellar rooster.  This means that he managed his hens wisely... he looked out for their safety.  When out and about in the fields and yard, he kept an eye out for any threat and made it known when such occurred.  He fulfilled his duty faithfully in breeding... beautiful chicks, true to breed specifications with a high fertility count coming from the incubator.  He was beautiful, strutting his stuff and  being the undisputed king of the coop.  BUT, and here is the critical thing, he understood his place in the human/rooster heirarchy... he did not ever attack a human.  He was always happy and contented doing his rooster duties and leaving the business of  being the 'top dog' up to the humans.  I don't know why this is... some roosters are simply better than others.

When it came his time (after a couple of 'off days' he died on the roost), there were present in the barnyard, a number of his progeny in a 'bachelor' coop.  Bachelor coop is also short for the 'fattening up' pen.
Before I could choose a replacement rooster, a still undetermined predator took out all but two of the bachelors.  It was winter, breeding genetics were not high on my priorities. In choosing the next ruler for the chicken kingdom, I opted to break the hens up, making two coops and keep the two roosters.  One of them was not true to breed in that he had a rose comb, so I'm not exactly sure why he was spared at the time, except that he seemed meek and mild mannered enough like his father. 

Fast forward to the last two weeks.  One rooster has decided that I need to be taken out... seriously.
Every time I turn my back on him, I can hear the pitter patter of chicken feet, right before he hits me... in the back of the legs, in the back of the head... where ever he can land...  Please note his fine spurs...

Spurs that he has used most effectively on my arms and legs.

I am not amused. In the grand scheme of someone getting taken out,,, it's not gonna be me.

Note that I am post surgery and not much in shape for rooster wrangling.  I did manage to catch him and pen him separately, but he managed to free himself from the pen... sigh...  where, oh. where are the farm boys when you need them?

On the other hand, we have this fine gentlerooster.  In this video (first attempt at video!) you can see that he is less than 2 feet from me.  No, no... you will not be able to see this , as I have failed yet again to get a video clip to load!  Trust me here, he's quite companionable, indeed, even to the point of following me about the yard, all the while gently calling to his flock of 'girls.  Anyway... here's the 'good rooster'... the "destined to be the ruler of the barnyard rooster".

This morning, as I was out doing morning chores, this guy followed me all about.  Where he goes, his 4 hens go, all clucking gently, searching for bugs in the beautiful morning sunshine, eating grass, dusting themselves.  When he finds a treat, he 'calls' his girls, who hustle over... first come, first to get the bug, so to speak.
He is clearly the 'second' rooster in the barnyard currently... he lost his beautiful long tail feathers in the last two weeks, during cockfights with the mean rooster, who clearly has established his rulership.  He keeps 'his' girls out in the pasture until the other rooster and his chickens have been locked in for the night, then he calls and they trot in at full speed... right amusing, actually.  I let them out first in the morning and give them adequate getaway time.

Part of living with farm animals is managing them.  Managing them is not always fun or easy.
Anyone who keeps chickens, who uses an incubator to increase their flocks WILL get more males than can be kept in a barnyard. Food costs are high and rising and feeding roosters is not productive, not to mentioned the aforementioned nonsense.  They take resources from your hens, who give you the eggs that are the main reasons that chickens reside on this farm.  Except for the necessary one rooster for every 10 to 12 hens, they harm the hens with excessive mating and harassment.  While you sometimes can 'share' a rooster or two, the rest become 'table birds'. Plain and simple. I don't enjoy the path from pen to table, but I do like homegrown meat on my table and knowing what's gone into it.  Being a farm girl is sometimes a dirty business.

Chicken keeping, on the average day, makes me quite contented.  I love the warm eggs, straight from the nest.  I love cooking with eggs so fresh they've never seen the fridge.  I love looking out in the pasture and see hen 'bottoms'... all sunny side up, pecking and scratching, clucking peaceably in the afternoon sun. They are my single most favorite yard ornament. I can sit in the yard, or on the porch and watch 'chicken tv' for quite a while.

All of this makes up for the fact that I don't enjoy being flogged.

A final note on rooster troubles... when the youngest son was about 7, on a day when several roosters had been harvested, he said "Mom, it just doesn't seem fair that we only eat the boys."  After an extended conversation,during which we discussed fairness in the world, among other things,  he was allowed to choose a rooster to be 'his'... he was also give a half dozen hens to accompany 'his' rooster.  The boy faithfully care for his flock until the following spring, when, as happens, the spring hormones kicked in and the rooster regularly kicked the kid's behind when he went to feed them.
It took less than a week before the boy took the matter into his own hands, ended the experiment of 'why don't we keep a lot of boy chickens?' and never looked back.

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