Jul 5, 2017

Why Did the Rooster Cross the Road? Because Our Hens Were on the Other Side!

Late Sunday afternoon, my hubby spotted a beautiful rooster wandering around the outside of our chicken run, trying to find a way in. We've been wanting to add a rooster to the homestead, but every time we see one advertised, someone else has already snatched it up. So light bulbs went on above our heads. My husband called our neighbor, knowing it must be his bird. "Your rooster is over here romancing our hens. Do you mind if we keep him for a few days?" Our neighbor readily agreed.

So we opened the gate to our chicken run - there was little danger of our hens wandering off; they are so content in that run, they show little interest in leaving it. And within minutes, the rooster had found his way inside.

First, he crowed. Repeatedly. "I proclaim these ladies are mine!" I imagine him saying. Then he spread his wings wide as if to impress our girls with his splendor. Soon, he started scratching around, found some food, and called to the girls. "Ladies! I found something tasty! Come and get it!"

They eyed him suspiciously and didn't take him up on his offer.

Finally, he began following them around, cooing bewitchingly. At least, I guess he was bewitching, because within 30 minutes, he was making whoopie with one of our hens. He then wasted no time getting friendly with all of them.

We are thankful he's a gentleman about it all. He never once pecked, scratched, or got violent with the hens. And when dusk came and I locked the hen house...he was nestled away in there like he'd never had any other home.

His second day here, I walked by the run to see how things were going...and discovered the gate was unlatched. That morning, my daughter hadn't closed it properly. All but our two broody hens were missing. (Broody hens are in a hormonal state that prepares them to hatch eggs.Among other things, they sit on the nest and do not leave it. It doesn't matter that our eggs were not fertilized. ) I was a little panicky, since the rooster was not ours to lose.

My first thought was that Mr. Rooster had lead our hens to his old property, wanting to integrate his new lady friends with his old ones. But before we could call the neighbor, my son spotted the partial flock in the woods, busily scratching away on the forest floor, finding bugs. The rooster hadn't been trying to get back home. He was merely looking out for his new hens, finding them a good foraging location.

To complicate things, our 90 lb. puppy, Ed, got loose. He's good around "his" animals, but I was worried he'd go after the rooster, thinking it didn't belong on our property. So I spent 15 minutes trying to catch him, wrestle with him, and lock him up before I could proceed with the chicken rescue mission.

By the time this was accomplished, Mr. Rooster had lead the hens to a prime foraging spot under some trees on a steep embankment. And, naturally, he did his best to protect them from me. Still, one by one I grabbed squawking hens, handed them to the children, and had them put the girls back in the chicken run. 

I was not looking forward to picking up the rooster. Roosters have spurs...need I say more? (I didn't realize at the time that Mr. Rooster is young enough he doesn't have spurs yet.) But I walked back to the woods to do my best and...he had disappeared. Completely vanished. I hoped he was headed back to "his" ladies. I was right! I don't know how he moved so fast, but he was already pacing outside the run, with the hens ruffled and upset he wasn't inside with them. (Amazing how quickly those hens adopted him!) I opened the gate and chased him until he ran into the run to flee me. Whew!

Later that day, amazed by how the rooster seemed to complete our flock - how the hens already adored him and obeyed his gentle commands - and entranced by his lovely crowing that just made the homestead more homesteady - my hubby asked the neighbor if we could buy his rooster.

"Tell you what," our neighbor said. "Give me half the chicks from your first two clutches, and he's all yours."*

Happy dance!

Of course, hatching chicks the natural way is a little bit iffy. There's a reason chickens mate constantly; not all clutches of eggs hatch, and all newborn chicks are incredibly fragile.

But, best case scenario, sometime within the next 3 weeks, our hens will lay some fertilized eggs, and one of our hens will be patient enough to sit on them for 21 days, then mother the resulting chicks.

Hens often get fed up before 21 days of sitting have passed. But we have one particularly broody hen who seems very patient. Twice now, she's plucked her chest feathers and sat on unfertilized eggs. She's felt hot and gives that gentle clucking sound only broody hens make. When we remove eggs from under her, she scolds us - and even, once, pecked. (Which is a huge deal for Australorps. They are not much into pecking, especially at their humans.) In fact, when Mr. Rooster originally crossed the road, we had her separated from the flock, trying to get her to come out of the broodiness she'd had for several days. Now she's in with the rest of the flock and we hope her broody dreams come true!

I'm ridiculously happy to have this rooster. He is so nice - which is a huge bonus. Many roosters are just plain mean. He is gorgeous. (I think he might be an Americauna.) The hens love him. And now my hubby has an excuse to get around to expanding the hen house. (Wink.)

Only one questions remains: What should we name him?

* In case you're wondering, Mr. Rooster shows zero interest in crossing the road again. For whatever reason, he has chosen our hens as his.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a Romeo to me! LOL Such a fun story to read. Congrats on your new feathered family member. :) I'm glad he's yours now... errrr, your his now.... ??? Ha