Sunday, August 3, 2014
Any Cock'll Do? Not According To Our Hens.
We had hatched some eggs from our hens before the coyote attack known as "The Great Chicken Massacree Of Twenty And Fourteen". The daddy rooster was an Ameraucana Black/Lav Split. We had three different kinds of hens...Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red. I built a homemade incubator out of a small Styrofoam cooler and a lightbulb, and put eight eggs in it.
Six of them hatched. They were pretty danged cute.
We lost one of the babies on the night of the coyote attack. The other five have grown to be beautiful birds. Unfortunately, three of the five turned out to be roosters. Along with the four pullets I bought at the Davidson Country Co-op, we had six hens and three roosters. That's not a desirable ratio at all. At least one, and most likely two, of the roosters had to go.
Neither Nina nor I had any experience killing and cleaning chickens, but she told me that if I could kill one, she could clean it. That was the plan. I started studying on how to implement it. I could kill one easily enough, but the rest of the process seemed like an awful lot of work (and supplies) unless you were doing multiple chickens. I know people have killed a chicken for dinner on countless occasions, so it had to be easier than all the YouTube videos made it out to be. The other problem was that they were such beautiful birds that it almost seemed a shame to eat them. I started looking on Craigslist for people who were in the market for roosters.
We were hoping to find someone who would give a rooster a good home and some hens to keep happy. Since the roosters carried the "Easter Egger" gene, we thought it would be easy enough to find someone who would want them. We were willing to give them away to good homes. As it turns out, there are a lot of people with way more roosters than they need. We also heard horror stories of people who collected free birds to use as bait for fighting dogs. One of our greatest fears was that somebody might use them for fighting roosters since they were pretty big birds.
I found an ad for a fellow who said he was at the Triune Flea Market every weekend with about six hundred birds of different kinds. He also said that he was interested in buying birds. It's about forty-five minutes away, but I drove down there to talk to him yesterday morning. I didn't take the roosters with me. It was more of a seeing-what's-up kind of excursion. He wasn't there when I got there, but I did talk to two other people who had birds. Both told me to bring the roosters down and we could see about swapping for some hens. One guys birds looked kind of ratty, and he wasn't overly-friendly. The other fellow had some nice looking birds, and he also seemed to be a pretty nice guy...just a good old boy loving life. I told him I'd come back this morning.
We were having trouble trying to decide which rooster to keep. Two of the roosters looked almost identical, and one of those two was huge. It was a toss-up between him and the third rooster, who is one of the most exotically-colored chickens I have ever seen. The hens decided for us. We went out after dark last night (the best time to catch chickens) and opened up the henhouse. The two hens were sleeping almost on top of the exotically-colored boy, while the other two roosters were perched away from the group with their backs to the door. The first one was a pretty easy snatch. I grabbed him up and dropped him into the dog crate that we had borrowed from the neighbors. Unfortunately, that caused a ruckus in the henhouse, so we had to wait an hour to go snag the second rooster. They spent the night in the dog crate on the front porch. This morning we were treated (?) to stereo-crowing.
When I got back to Triune this morning, all of the vendors were raving over the roosters, and wanting to know if I had any more like that. I said "One...but he's staying with us." The guy who I traded with told me that he thought whoever bought them would want them for yard roosters. In fact, he told me that he was keeping one for himself. I felt pretty good about that. He was going to trade me straight up for two adult hens that were already laying, but he told me that if I wanted some slightly younger pullets, he would give me three. I took three Barred Rocks that are right around the age of our younger chickens, who are three weeks younger than the ones we hatched. He told me to come back any time.
We now have nine hens and one rooster...a much better ratio.
I think everybody's happy.