Monday, October 15, 2012

And Then There Was One (Subtitled: MEN!!!)


As many of you know, we hatched our very first chicks this past spring. It was the most beautiful and truly awe-inspiring experience and I loved every minute of it. But of course hatching eggs can't be sexed, so I knew we would end up with some roosters.  I didn't know we would end up with nine roosters...but I'm getting ahead of myself.



The chicks were all adorable and sweet, and I gave them all girly names and crossed my fingers.  But much as I wanted to deny it, it soon became clear that we had some little roosters in the mix.


By the time they were three months old or so, we had our hands full. The boys were starting to chase our eight laying hens, causing chaos in a run that had up until that point been a male-free zone. The little roos started to fight among themselves and don't even ask me about the crowing.  Nonstop, all day long.  So I did what any rational chicken keeper would do and turned the roosters out each morning in the pasture to roam free all day - and good luck to any marauding fox or loose dog who dared take on a cadre of nine roosters!


That helped a lot. At least our laying hens and the other pullets were no longer brutalized, and the roosters, with room to spread out, stopped fighting.  I loved looking out the kitchen window and seeing all the beautiful roosters happily grazing and pecking for bugs.   


But they were restless. They kept trying to get back into the run with the hens, and the incessant crowing was still a bit much. I knew I couldn't keep all the roosters indefinitely, so with a heavy heart I started finding homes for them. I couldn't bear to think they would end up in a stew pot because they were all breeder stock, gorgeous breeds that I had hatched and hand raised, so I placed ads on Craig's List and asked on Facebook if anyone was interested in a rooster - or two or three!  I carefully screened and found good homes for them with Facebook fans, friends and a few local chicken keepers who wanted to use them for breeding.

Soon we were down to just two roosters.  Lancelot, a gorgeous Light Sussex, and John Quincy, an equally regal Olive Egger.



They got along okay, with Lancelot as the dominant rooster and John Quincy sort of flying under the radar - hardly crowing at all, keeping 'company' with just one of the other Olive Eggers, Abigail.  And peace reigned once again.

Let me just stop here and tell you that my husband loves animals. All kinds of animals. He really does.  He has helped me rescue baby bunnies and held a sick duckling.  He has always supported my 'habit' and given me free rein to raise what I wish, even helping out with putting the chickens in if I'm not home, and I've even occasionally caught him spraying the ducks with the hose while he's filling up water buckets (which they LOVE by the way).  Just keep that in mind as you read on...


Things were great for awhile. Lancelot really was regal-looking and he was a good protector of the flock - when he wasn't chasing them down to mate with them, that is! He was bit over the top with his crowing and posturing, but I dared to hope that everything was going to be fine.  And it was, sort of, for awhile...


And then Lancelot turned mean.  He was still okay with me.  Maybe because he had imprinted on me, maybe because being a woman, he didn't see me as a threat. Who knows?  But he was a HUGE rooster and the day I found my husband wielding a rake, trying to keep Lancelot at bay, I knew his days were numbered (the rooster's, not my husband's!).


From then on, Lancelot and my husband always seemed at odds. Lancelot would crow and puff up whenever he saw my husband. He would try and flank him and spur his shins while we were feeding the horses.  Daily standoffs became the norm. That in turn made my husband puff up whenever Lancelot came around, and I think Lancelot felt the vibes and just behaved even worse.  

I have to admit that the image of a 190-pound grown man wielding a rake or shovel to protect himself from an 8-pound rooster often caused me to bite my cheeks to keep from bursting out laughing, but it really was not laughing matter. A rooster with his sharp beak and spurs, intent on protecting his flock and his turf, can really inflict some pretty substantial damage.

I tried to give Lancelot away to a friend who has a nearby farm, but she took one look at this huge, foreboding rooster who was attacking her muck boots and immediately said her husband would divorce her if she came home with him!

Lancelot wasn't in the least bit deterred by being sprayed by the hose or poked with the rake. He was determined to prove that HE was in charge, that is was HIS barn, HIS pasture, HIS chickens. His testosterone had kicked in big time, and apparently he was reacting to my husband's testosterone.  The skirmishes became more heated, everyone was tense around each other and things slid downhill quickly.

So the decision was made to rehome Lancelot to a nearby farm, where he is free to roam to his heart's content and have his pick of hens.  I was sad to see him go because I knew he was just doing his job, the job he had been born to do, but he belonged on a larger farm where he would have room to 'be' a rooster.

                   

And that left John Quincy.  My favorite.  A gorgeous glossy, greenish-black Olive Egger rooster.  Not aggressive with the hens, not much into crowing, maybe a few times in the morning and that was it, I hoped that's how he would remain.  

So far, he and my husband have had a few minor skirmishes, but usually as soon as the rake comes out, John Q. beats a hasty retreat.  I think they have reached a bit of a truce, and hopefully John Quincy understands that my husband has NO interest in being king of the run, ruler of the roost, or alpha in the coop.


He seems to feel secure enough to let my husband come and go and do  chores and tend to the horses, keeping  his distance but most definitely keeping an eye on him while my husband shoots John Quincy stern glances right back.

                          

For now, John Quincy seems okay with being second in command, but the truce was hard-won.  MEN!!!


26 comments:

  1. Great story, Lisa. Isn't it amazing how animals just KNOW things? I love the photo of Abigail and JQ in front of your adorable coop.

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  2. I've read in other blogs of roosters where you need to have a stick or broom or something with you.

    Hope things remain calmer with John Q so he can stay around.

    Have a blessed week! ♥

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  3. Loved this story. I have a Lavender Orpington that i raised from a day old chick. He has been very serene for the most part. But lately he has come into his own, chasing the women and getting all puffed up when I get too close. Hmmm, I dunno I was hoping he would be a sweet rooster but time will tell, I want to keep him because he is just wonderfully regal looking.

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  4. I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud (which isn't a great idea, since my children are sleeping)!

    I'm following you now, by the way...and I'm having so much fun! Happy today :-)

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  5. In my experience, a lot of rooster behavior is genetic-borne and part of it is how they are treated. Since I am certain that you treat your chickens kindly, I think genetics may have played a role in the aggression you described.

    We have 4 wonderful, sweet, adult roosters living together with our hens (and I am certain a few more disguising themselves as pullets) all in one yard and they all get along. There is a pecking order, of course, but no fighting. And, they are not aggressive to us at all. No puffing up. No challenging. We are breeding our lads and thus far, all their off-spring are as sweet.

    One thing that I found helpful in keeping them all tame, is handling them (gently) regularly, whether they liked it or not. We pick them up and rub their necks and pet them. At first, they were disgruntled to be handled, but it doesn't take long for them to enjoy the chicken massage.

    I hope John Q remains docile for you. :) Have a great day!

    Sonja Twombly of http://lallybrochfarms.blogspot.com

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    1. I agree completely Sonja. All our roos were treated the same, handled regularly, I did that on purpose to try and establish dominance early on with these guys. I don't fault any of them, they were just doing what they do naturally, what they think is their job. Fortunately, I don't need roosters to keep the flock safe as they are in an enclosed yard, but I do enjoy their beauty...and a little crowing!

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  6. We also have chicken but the chick that we have hutch a lot of them died how did you raise you chicks

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    1. You will need to read our post Baby Chick Care about raising chicks.

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  7. We have one rooster and I know exactly what your husband was going through. My rooster (Buff Orpington) knows what a rake is also. He now knows not to make a run on me if I am facing him. If I turn my back he will start a run. If I have something in my hands he keeps his distance no matter what way I am facing. It got to the point where I knocked him so hard in the head he acted a little loopy for awhile but that got us to the truce we know have.

    I must not be awake this morning. I replied to the email about this post with the same information thinking I was in the comment block...

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    1. I think it is important to establish yourself as alpha rooster, and unfortunately sometimes it has to be a with a hard hand. Thanks for sharing - no worries about replying to the email, my Mom did that regularly until she asked why I was never replying to her email and I explained those didn't exactly come from ME!

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  8. We are very fortunate to have a large mellow rooster at our place. He came to us as a two year old and was the less dominant of two roosters my sister had. He will gently attack dogs or goats if they annoy him, but has never been aggressive towards people. He is 4 years old now. I hope we have him for a long time! It will kill me when he passes away. I had decided early on though that if we ever wound up with an aggressive roo he would have to go. Sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do! I also have some bantam roos that are sweet as can be! They watch over their girls but they love to be held.

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  9. Crazy story! Seems like it's the luck of the draw with roosters. Our first roo started getting a little aggressive around one year of age and kind of rushing me and pecking my legs if I got too close. I learned to walk slowly around him and not get close and we get along just fine.

    We got 8 pullets this spring, and one ended up being a rooster! They both get along fairly well, with the older roo chasing the younger one occasionally throughout the day to assert his dominance. I handled the new roo A LOT and hold him every day to try to help him be more gentle, and it seems to have worked so far. I'm just kind of worried that when he turns a year old his hormones will start to rage!

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  10. Peckerhead is my second black copper marans rooster...Copper hand raised turned so mean...my father took him...in the early days Peckerhead had injured his leg couldn't walk so I separated him and nursed him back...he is walking soundly and his breeding habits are fine...the bonus he just checks out what I do in the coop and goes on his way!

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  11. My Golden Laced Wyandotte (18 months old) had and continues to be handled, not a lot but maybe 2 or 3 times a week, for general health assesment and spur trimming when needed. Free range during the day with the hens and so far he's only peckish if I'm carrying a bag or bucket with treats and don't share quick enough. But...strangers in the yard are fair game. Although only by sneak attack from behind. He'll hold his ground but not charge as long as your facing him. I posted a caution sign on the backyard gate 'Area patrolled by Attack Rooster - Security Co.' So all that enter are advised lol.

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  12. Great post! I laughed out loud at the antics.

    It's funny isn't it that male animals recognize which humans are female and which humans are male. We were raised on a horse and cattle ranch and often cut through the fields to the diary next door. In that neighboring field lived a ram. This ram let all of us girls pass through without notice but as soon as my younger brother, then 5 yrs old, stepped into the field that ram tormented him by repeatedly head butting him to the ground. We even tried dressing him in girl's clothes, coat and hat but that wise ram was never fooled!

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    1. Too funny! I guess disguises don't work then ???? I didn't think of that. Hahhha!

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  13. Sweet chickies... :) I am just out visiting...enjoyed my stay here. I would love for you to share your photos on my blog swap...Farm Photo Friday. Stop on over and say hi!

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  14. I would rather dispatch a rooster myself, than have a wild animal do it. I am sure my way would be more humane and the rooster, which I raised and cared for in a good manner, would go to feed my family.

    I know my animals have had a better life than any you would find in a grocery store.

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  15. Watching my husband chase my hens around, or be chased as he does yard work, is truly amusing...fortunately he gets a laugh out of it as well! However, he has banned roosters and this is probably a good idea...I can only handle one alpha male at a time!

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  16. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog and your Facebook page. I REALLY, REALLY want my own chickens and unfortunately live in a city where they are frowned upon. It will be a few years before I can make it out of here to the country. In the mean time, I will enjoy your stories and pictures and just dream!

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  20. We have had the very unfortunate experience of a rooster being overly dominate. Our almost two year old slipped out the front door and by the time my teen opened the back door to grab him (seconds mind you) the rooster started flogging my baby! He gouged him square between the eyes and ripped the corner of his mouth. I took him to our local triage hospital and they sent us to Vanderbilt Children's. Everyone's first reaction was "dog attack". They weren't even sure how to treat it since they hadn't ever had a "rooster attack" before. They essentially treated it as a dog attack. My baby received several stitches and recovered beautifully. The rooster on the other hand...he didn't fare so well.

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Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily
www.facebook.com/FreshEggsDaily