Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Great 2008 Rooster Roundup
NOTE: All the chickens in these photos are alive and well.
Into every chicken owner's life comes a time when one must face facts, protect the flock, and well, take charge of the rooster gangs.
Last summer I brought home a dozen fertilized eggs from another farmer. I wanted to add to our small Bantie flock, but I also wanted to introduce the green egg laying Arancauna. Our original 7 bantie hens got right to the task of setting on the eggs and 20+ weeks later, we had chicks. And of course, 4 of the 7 that lived wereroosters.
I naively played head games with myself, saying boldly to Martyn, "Everyone is getting along just fine, it will be good to have a variety of roosters around to protect the ladies while they free range..." SIlence from the mate.
Weeks later, when the polite boy roosters became real man roosters, things changed. At 6 months, the 'boys' had formed three groups. Group one was Old Papa [our original Bantie rooster] and one of the new, young roosters who I call Crow. These guys were perfect gentlemen to each other, and the ladies. Group 2 consisted of 2 roosters that weren't that bad individually, but together could be like two raptors around the cats and hens. And then there was Group 1, comprised of one rooster who I named Bad Ass. This rooster ruled the hen house, ruled the cat food area, ruled the barnyard of donkeys. He was as far up on the pecking order as he could be. He was the schoolyard bully and he just didn't give a hoot what hen he hurt. He even kept Frankie kept at bay, and nobody kept Frankie at bay.
Bad Ass sealed his fate quicker than he might have, when he pecked a hole in the neck of one of the little bantie hens. I doctored her up, and for 2 days she seemed ok, eating, etc. But one night she simply vanished. I of course to this day blame Bad Ass, as I think maybe the hen was weakened, and perhaps an owl got her or...who knows. No trace was found of her. I immediately confronted the evil doer, "That's it, Bad Ass, you pick on my hens, you're out of here." He was unimpressed.
So, I began frantically reading to try and learn to kill a chicken. While I had no qualms about harvesting Bad Ass, I wanted to do it properly, and poured over books and web sites trying to find the best way. Within a couple weeks, Bad Ass had again been pecking hard on little Inky, another Bantie. These Leghorn crosses were so much bigger than the Banties, and it was a near death experience every time he went at them. That was it. I snapped.
I caught Bad Ass, and the Group 2 posse, and put them in secure barn stall. I would find someone to come help me do the deed properly, but for now, they were safe, plenty to eat, plenty to drink, and my hens were safe. The next morning, a creature raced behind me as I went to the barn. It was Bad Ass, rushing to get to the cat food area, as he knew my morning feeding routine. I swear I heard him taunting me as he raced by. Be darned if that rooster and flown up about 15 + feet and found a tiny escape route, leaving the Group 2 posse in the dust.
So I secured his escape route, and once again caught him. But within an hour, he had escaped again. Bad Ass was just getting badder.
"OK, Bad Ass, do what you want, sleep outside for all I care. You're on your own." Fortunately, two of our good farm friends [actually three, they brought their adorable new baby, a real charming fellow] came over in the next days to help us with the proper chicken slaughter. We couldn't have had better teachers. Of course, the night before the act, I couldn't for the life of me catch the 3 roosters. All the advice of going to the chickens at night in their roost is fine- for most roosters- but Bad Ass was an escaped con, an expert at protecting himself. He had a million places to flee in the big old barn. I gave up after an hour.
Finally the next morning, D Day, and I somehow casually got the three marked roosters in the hen house, and caught them all. They had a few hours before the deed, so they were calm and collected, as was I. I thanked them all for their sacrifice, even Bad Ass. One never takes the slaughter event lightly.
That night, we ate Bad Ass. I did not have one moment of regret. Or guilt. He lived 6 months in sun, in charge of the barnyard. He died quickly and was treated more humanely than he treated others. And the next day, we had 4 eggs, a sure sign the hens were happy to have the posse gone. Old Papa and Crow both remain gentleman. I'm glad, as Crow [shown here] is just so beautiful. And Old Papa will always have a home here.