Friday, June 26, 2009

Rooster in the hen house!

Stew, the Barred Plymouth Rock rooster, struts his stuff

I suspected as much. A few weeks after I got our batch of hens back in late March, one of the Barred Plymouth Rock chickens was acting especially precocious and doing things like standing on the chicken waterer and coming up to me when the others wouldn't. He seemed more alert, too, and watchful. He also seemed a bit bigger and its head was different than the others of its type. Must be a rooster, I hoped.

Sure enough, his comb started to emerge about a month ago, he soon grew much bigger than the rest and he remains the most watchful and gregarious of the bunch. So far no mean streak but his mighty rooster-ness was proclaimed the other day with a pitiful sort of warbly, adolescent "cock a doodle do-eruhhhh." I'm sure his voice will improve with time as he is only three months old. He has also begun to crow when let out in the mornings and that's a good sign of things to come.

What's up? Stew, the rooster, and a barred rock hen converse in the coop.

There is often the odd rooster thrown into the chicks as they aren't always sexed accurately (who ever is?). I was secretly hoping for a rooster. I intend to keep him and will hope that he can behave himself and not get too feisty with his girls or with us. Otherwise, he might just be living up to his name: Stew is a contender right now but I'm still thinking about it. Any ideas?

The hens and their main man are very happy with their hen yard and enjoy lots of treats such as strawberry hulls, melon rinds, old bread and even piles of weeds. At night, just at dusk, they saunter back into their house on their own and begin their roosting by crowding onto the built-in roost and spilling over onto window sills and any open areas where they can perch. Their nesting boxes are filled with shavings and await their first eggs, probably by the end of summer.

The hen house and yard was constructed over the former perennial garden (sorry, Miss Lillian). Fortunately, there are still a few perennials around the hen house that I have been able to retain.

I do want to free-range them but we are trying to figure out how to reconcile three obviously intent hunting dogs with roaming chickens. As my garden is too pitiful having left it for two weeks (and now full of crab grass), I am considering cooping them up in there during the days and having them eat the weeds, seeds, seedlings and all. Then I could start over with a midsummer/fall garden, get ready fertilizer, have the weeds eradicated (and everything else) without the use of chemical spray, and try not to cry for the tomatoes that might have been.

Cornish X birds are bred to eat, sleep and drink–and they are messy birds. I won't miss them and will be thankful for a full freezer this winter.

Meanwhile, over on the other side of the coop, we have twenty-five fat Cornish X birds that, while only a month old, are about the same size as the 3-month old hens. In the mix is an errant "exotic," a freebie from Murray McMurray, and you can see how he pales in size to the giant and mighty meat birds. He looks like an Araucana but I'm not certain yet as he is smaller than the others were at that age (and it, too, has an emergent comb). If we want to integrate he or she successfully with the other side of the coop (those that will live to lay eggs or strut their stuff), he has to be added at night so they don't get too alarmed. I will likely wait until he is a bit bigger. For the time being he is cooped up with the meat birds and three ducks who clearly would not have survived long on our pond with three puppies and a large snapping turtle in its depths (we've already lost three so in they went to live with the chickens–for now: our eldest boy is pondering Peking Duck).


Ladyfromthewoods said...

I'll have to send you a photo of my step-sister's "chicken apron" in case your rooster starts irratating your hens' backs. You can probably look them up on google too.

Mill Springs Re-enactment and an Appalacian Art Show/Sale in Somerset this weekend. We are playing them by ear.

Nice photos!

Catherine said...

Can't wait to see chicken apron pic and to hear about the reason for two-front doors...that is a blog right there!

See you soon!


Crystal Mudgett-Epley said...

As far as roosters go - we have way too many, but I like to keep "an heir and a spare" just in case. We had a barred rock and a buff orp. that ended up getting mean though so off they went to the sale. Hope you have better luck!