I think we have our Oscar and Orlando! Baby beefin’.They freeze, staring at each other. It’s quite aggressive, considering it’s motionless. You can feel the tension. Then they pretend to go about their business for about a second and a half, then – Freeze! Beak to beak. Big yellow feet:)
The five outcast roosters are spending their days gazing through the plastic wall, or fence, at all the fun the others are having, and the hens prancing around.Their coop is in the edge of the woods, but they have gravitated, in a group, to the side of the greenhouse. They haven’t investigated too far. Not far enough to find the end of the fence. It’s only one section now, to deter them from getting at the rest of the flock (it doesn’t take much). There are enough roos in the mix, and I don’t want any of these guys’ genes. They’re just dumb, aggressive galoots; they spend all day scrapping with each other. Not even pure Silkies. Maybe not their fault they aren’t good for anything, but still. What do I do with them?!
I can’t even caption them. All I get is Duhhhhh. Hen. HEN. Fight! Duhhhh.
On the inside a couple of the new roos have shown that they have a brain, and some gumption, and have essentially self-selected for inclusion in the main flock (for now, until I make some arranged marriages). Oddly, it’s only the black roosters that have distinguished themselves. In my flock, the white roosters are the clever, trustworthy ones (the Colonel is a hero among roosters).
Got some new additions to the Poultry Palace last night. A few retiring Barred Rocks and one Ameracauna (I’m running a chicken rest home after all). They went in the coop after dark in the evening and came toddling out this morning, curious and tentative.
The guineas were hilarious, peeking from behind hay bales and furtively scuttling behind to circle the new bird(s) and examine them from all angles.
The big surprise was Philippe Petit, immediately fixing on pretty Puffcheeks (the brown bearded lady on the right), and then clearly deciding that these new girls were his to look after.
In the morning, the new girls were all most comfortable in the corner behind the hay bales.
Philippe has never felt so important, and is clearly coming down off his tightrope and roostering up to taking on some responsibility. She looks like she’s about to adjust his feathers for him (the equivalent of brushing some lint off his lapel). Here comes Stew, sniffing around. Cue the battles.
Now that Jack is gone, the three young Chanticleer (full size) roosters are sorting themselves out, and HW reported Petit and Stew were Thunderdoming it in the afternoon. Bloody combs all around. A shock, because Philippe has never engaged another roo, and all of a sudden, he’s in the ring? He’s taking this seriously.
Also, last night while I was inciting drama anyway by adding hens, I elevated two roosters from the frat house to the big coops, where I want them to integrate and take charge of some hens. I put Toffee in with the new hens and Brahmas, and Petit in with the Colonel and layers, because that was how I thought they would work out. They usually turn out to have other ideas. HW found Toffee back in the boys dorm and Petit posted outside the new girls coop (of course). He’s committed. He saw them go in there.
The rooster formerly designated as “Stew” got a reprieve today. Jack the Jerk went in the pot, and is missed by absolutely no one. He was just a menace whose mission in life was to disturb the peace. GH world is much happier now.But Stew was also scheduled for demise due to bad behavior. We wrangled him up, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on him because I have a soft heart and he doesn’t know any better. He’s young. He had bad role models.I believe he had a bit of an attitude adjustment, too, after a protracted period of being hung by the feet while his future was under debate. I cried. He watched, passive, one alert eye watching the discussion. It’s hard. One strong rooster who is aggressive ruins the atmosphere for everyone else. The hens are on edge, the other roosters are looking over their shoulder. Roosters have a role – a very important role in a free-range flock that I always advocate for – roos are on constant lookout for threats, they “herd” and keep track of all the ladies, and they announce food discoveries. Good strong roosters who do these things are priceless. But when a rooster doesn’t do these things, he’s a liability.
In the end, I decided I’d do the work of putting him on Kijiji and rehoming him, because he’s very good-looking and still might do very well elsewhere. So he was returned to the GH, and by all appearances, is much subdued and has a new perspective after his near-death experience. We’ll see if he sleeps that off.
The Poultry Palace is palpably more peaceful now.
Since I don’t eat them, and don’t think of them as meat, or a farm product, birds here get to live long good lives, and get executed only as a greater-good calculation. Farm animal death ethics is something I mean to write more about. Not today. Today, I feel good about Jack being gone, and also good about a second chance for Stewie.
The funniest thing about the arrival of the Brahmas is the reaction of the Silkie roosters – the two “exiles” as I call them, since they don´t interact with the main tribe and mostly hide in the coop. Or did, until the Brahmas came.
I think they feel they´ve gone to heaven since the Brahmas arrived. The second night they were sandwiched between the big pillowy ladies. I haven´t been this comfortable since I was a chick.
And ever since they´re really coming out of their shell. No more hiding in the coop. They hang all day in the shrub with the Brahmas, who really just lie around.
The big sign of transformation is that they are starting to crow! It´s not pretty (whoa, is there a rooster gargling over there?). That means they are feeling very good about themselves. Looks like some new copper tail feathers are coming in too. I’m glad they’re so happy.
They don’t mate the big girls (larger than they are). They seem perfectly content to snuggle.
Good looking guys.
I call them the walnut tree tribe – the mixed bunch of chickens who have decided they live in the small coop under the walnut. They are a distinct group now. Mom and the Oreos, the two roos, and the Brahmas. They interact surprisingly little with the Silkies who moved into the big coop, who live just at the other end of the greenhouse. The guineas and layer hens freely visit either tribe, and a couple of layers drop off eggs in the small coop.
Our beta Silkie rooster has started to exhibit some bad behaviour. Besides interfering with mating, understandable, I’ve recently seen him a few times pecking on the hens! Not ok! I understand he’s frustrated, but bad behaviour is a one way ticket to either the soup pot or Kijiji. He was also making a stab at crowing. It was an awful, pathetic, gargling (cocks figuring out how to crow are hilarious), but the prospect of three yelling roosters was sobering, and H.W. was threatening to “give him to nice farm”. I’m sure he’d make a good, happy alpha rooster if he got to have flock of his own, beta cocks usually do, so I put him up on Kijiji to give away. Since we are now down two hens it’s kind of urgent; the little white hen shouldn’t have to put up with two roosters each three times her size.
Someone made an appointment to come get him, but that very afternoon we were out by the Silkie coop: H.W. was just commenting that he hadn’t seen the beta rooster do anything bad when I caught him in the act. He got a beakful of the little white hen and she started squealing and struggling. I threw my hat at him, cursing, and he released her and ran away. I chased him a few steps, and then H.W. said “here comes the other rooster!”. From behind me the alpha rooster streaked past, taking up the cause, running and pecking and squawking.
It was awe-inspiring. We watched the two of them running off into the woods, hollering and shrieking, as far as we could see, while H.W. narrated. “Yeah! What she said! Dirtbag!” And then “They’re deep out there, I’m not sure you’re going to have a rooster to give away tonight.” Our Silkies aren’t known for venturing far from the coop, and are for getting lost when they do, so I figured I’d have to go after them. I circled out into the woods to get behind them. The alpha rooster was already back with his hen, her honour defended, but the beta was, predictably, wandering, and I chased him back towards the coop. Who did I unexpectedly run into out in the woods though? Fearless Friendly! She sure gets around.
The beta rooster got given away that night to a new flockster with a few (full-size) laying hens. H.W. skeptically predicted “they’re gonna laugh at him!” I’m told they are doing just fine. It’s either the shock of his life or all his dreams come true. Or both.
I started letting the chickens out into the wide world when I got back, because they have to learn sometime. I’d open the main door and just leave it open and wait. For hours they only poked their heads out, until one of the roosters got jostled and fell out, with much squawking. Over the first few days, they slowly ventured a few feet away from the coop.
That was fraught with anxiety for me. At first I only did it while I was around, all scared of all the threats they would encounter, with no street smarts at all! But they seem to be ok. I’ve seen them practically interacting with the ravens, whom they are about the same size as now, the bear has rolled through, as have the neighbor’s dogs, and there have been no losses.
At first, every morning when I opened their hatch the roosters would tumble out and stand there wide legged, blinking, and shake their necks out.
Now when I let them out in the morning they pop out the hatch like corks, Continue reading Learning to range