Posts tagged rooster selection

A New Sheriff

We hatched Skana, our black beauty, just over two years ago.

Skana was a beauty - deep black and silver gray with some bronze in his saddle feathers. Although he was a Heinz 57 chicken, he may have had some Australorp in his genes

Skana was a beauty – deep black and silver-gray with some bronze in his saddle feathers. Although he was a Heinz 57 chicken, he may have had some Australorp in his genes

As a chick, he won our affections over his three brood brothers and attained the seat of honour and privilege within our small flock. He continued to hold his throne despite the efforts of four subsequent male offspring. We admired his rise up to alpha-chicken and appreciated how calm he was. Skana was bliss compared to our first roo, Roo – gentle with the hens, tolerant of us, excellent as an early-warning system. No hen was lost, hurt or killed during his reign.

Skana

Doing what he does best.

But, it seems to me that roosters wear out after a time. Skana had an awful crow (“scream-a-doodle-doo” like nails on a chalkboard) and, as time went on, he crowed more and more often. But more than the crowing, the true issue was the aggression. In recent months, my arms were regularly ripped up and scratched by his beak just from offering him scratch or other treats.  He had begun to chase after me too. So, with some pained consideration and discussions, we decided to fire him and get a new sheriff.

Waffles and Pancake came as a twin brother package, donated by FM’s co-worker. She had three young roos and three young hens and, from the treading marks on the hens, there was some nasty competition going on as they all reached sexual maturity. She gave us the two beautiful Lavender Orpington boys who we integrated into our flock of 11 hens.

Quickly dubbed "The Matrix Twins", Pancake and Waffles are Lavendar Orpingtons whose thick silver feathers shine an iridescent purple.

Quickly dubbed “The Matrix Twins”, Pancake and Waffles are Lavender Orpingtons whose thick silver feathers shine an iridescent purple.

Within a day or two, we could see that Pancake was going to be a problem. He was both extremely noisy and quite aggressive towards us. Waffles seemed to be the slower and dimmer of the pair, bamfoozled by the endless beauties that strutted by him at every turn. We gave them more time to settle in, thinking that Pancake was simply stressed out by the new surroundings. In the end, Waffles made the cut and Pancake ended up in the freezer.

Waffles has settled in nicely with our flock. He is remarkably quiet, crowing only a couple of times each morning and very occasionally otherwise. His crow is unusual, kind of like an old jalopy horn. He doesn’t mind being scooped up and can easily be removed from any situation. He will even contentedly sit on my lap and snooze.

But there are concerns with Waffles and we don’t know what is wrong. He seems to be bent to the left, as if he is perpetually looking over his shoulder.

Waffles' bent body makes him run and walk in semi-circle and often bumps into things like porch posts and furniture.

Waffles’ bent body makes him run and walk in semi-circle and he often bumps into things like porch posts and furniture.

sigh.

We can straighten his neck and stretch his neck longer but his body always curves back to his quadimodo posture. His left wing hangs down, almost untucked, and when he flaps, it does not fully unfurl. His head is often down, almost touching the ground, even though he is neither eating nor sleeping.

Sleeping on the job, Waffles is fighting some unknown illness. This head-sown, sleepy position is fairly typical.

Sleeping on the job, Waffles is fighting some unknown illness. This head-down, sleepy position is fairly typical.

He is ‘listless’, sleepy and often falls asleep standing up. Sometimes when I scoop him up, he burps or releases air in a strange way.

But despite these issues, he keeps an eye out for danger (sort of), makes the appropriate roostery sounds and gives all the girls a good chase now and then. We have real concerns for his health since we quite like this new sheriff and we don’t want him to wear out too soon.

Waffles may be the new alpha-chicken but he has no idea how to deal with the marauding band of ducks who are always on his tail. (Look carefully - there is a young buck beside the stump)

Waffles may be the new alpha-chicken but he has no idea how to deal with the marauding band of ducks who are always on his tail. (Look carefully – there is a young buck beside the stump)

 

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Two Many Roosters

Or This Queendom Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us

The correct ratio of roosters to hens is 1:10 or so, but we have kept two roosters and four hens. As usual we are determined to learn from experience rather than rely on what literature tells us. I prefer Skana with his charcoal plumage, his dark Australorp eyes and his patient demeanour when I scoop him. These attributes allow me to ignore his ‘scream-a-doodle-doo’ crow.

Skana is beautiful, with his charcoal black feathers and rilliant red comb. He lacks a true tail and his crow is like a blood-curdling scream.

Skana is beautiful, with his charcoal black feathers and brilliant red comb. He lacks a true tail and his crow is like a blood-curdling scream.

FM prefers Pingu with his iridescent green and purple plumage, gorgeous rooster tail and rare crowing but he is elusive and expertly avoids the daily scoop.

The sunlight brought out irridescent green and purple in Pingu's feathers. His tail was superb!

The sunlight brings out irridescent green and purple in Pingu’s feathers. His tail is superb!

Both boys get along with each other, having been raised together, but Skana is definitely the top cock. He roosts with the girls, grazes with the girls and has his pick of the girls. Pingu hangs out at the edge of the flock and occasionally tries to get in on the action but is quickly put in his place.

As a result, Pingu has taken a keen interest in the new chicks and has set his mind on establishing his own harem. Like a pedophile, he spends the days lurking around their fenced area, crowing and strutting for them. Eventually when we opened the fencing to allow the chicks a wider range, he was on them in a mating frenzy. The flying feathers and screeches of these two month old babies stressed all of us out as they were pursued beyond their enclosure and had trouble finding their way back.

It also puts strain on Skana. Upon hearing the panicked calls of the chicks, Skana runs from his flock to the chicks to Pingu, trying desperately to assess the danger and to discipline Pingu. As Pingu’s confidence grows, he has started edging in on Skana’s hens but does so in a sneaky and violent fashion.

Pingu is looking a little sneaky here. No doubt he is lurking near the baby chicks, waiting to terrify him with his manliness.

Pingu is looking a little sneaky here. No doubt he is lurking near the baby chicks, waiting to terrify him with his manliness.

The hens are able to keep their eye on Skana’s macho moves and scoot out of reach when they choose to but they constantly blind-sided by Pingu’s ungentlemanly pounce. Let’s just say that everyone has lost a lot of feathers and every egg had been fertilized at least twice. Two of our hens, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, have gone into a hard moult and I truly believe that it is partially due to the stress of being constantly pursued.

And I haven’t even mentioned the crowing. The quiet Pingu has now found his voice and uses it as an answer to each of Skana’s calls. Oh… the endless crowing — it stresses out all 15 of us!

This looks so quaint and picturesque but, in reality, wine glasses within a kilometer radius were shattering!

Skana’s morning crowing session – This looks so quaint and picturesque but, in reality, wine glasses within a kilometer radius were shattering!

And so, the fate of Pingu was decided at the young age of 5 months old. We killed him and processed him just as we had done with his two brothers a few months earlier. Pingu wasn’t a malicious guy at all. He was the right rooster in the wrong place. He was just a guy trying to make his mark and I’m sure he was well-intentioned. His downfall was his gender.

As a three month old cockerel, Pingu was a shy beauty with lovely green/black feathers.

Here, as a three month old cockerel, Pingu was a shy beauty with lovely green/black feathers.

Sadly his sister, SunnySide will be the only one who mourns his passing.

Once again, Skana has been selected as top cock. Here he stands on the rooftop to celebrate. SunnySide is mildly impressed.

Once again, Skana has been selected as top cock. Here he stands on the rooftop to celebrate. SunnySide is mildly impressed.

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Searching For Neo

Who Will Be The Chosen One?

In my books, four roosters is four too many. But that is what we ended up with after Tweedle Mum recently hatched five chicks. After losing sweet Peeps to a dog mauling last winter, we learned the hard way that the lack of a rooster can endanger the lives of free-ranging hens. So we intend to keep one of these Roos and probably eat the rest. (Life on the Queendom is not for the faint of heart)

When you suddenly have four boys all coming to maturity at once, you have to carefully analyze their ‘chicken-alities’ and groom one to be your man. Here are the candidates:

Meriadoc – As a chick, Meriadoc was very social and didn’t mind being scooped up. He would nestle down in your hand and peep contentedly. Now, he is our biggest rooster and avoids both of us, analysing our every move. He has become very cautious around us but in a sly way. I’m sure that he is scheming to launch onto my forehead at any given moment. He is covered in black feathers which shine an iridescent green or purple in the sunlight and recently he has developed white streaks in his cape feathers. He is quite taken with Chip, the queen of our coop, but he is very rough on her, chasing her to exhaustion and plucking out beakfuls of feathers. He crows occasionally but only if someone else starts it. He will make a hearty meal.

Named after one of the famous hobbits, Meriadoc sport feathered legs and feet. Initially we were able to hold him and he had great potential socially.

Named after one of the famous hobbits, Meriadoc sports feathered legs and feet

Sly and scheming, Meri's dark chicken-ality outweighs his beautiful plumage.

Sly and scheming, but kind of pretty

Pingu – This is our smallest rooster and our most timid. He was the first to crow but has not crowed for the past three weeks, leaving that job to the others. Being the smallest (perhaps a bantam), he also seems to be the lowest rooster in the pecking order. I haven’t seen anyone pick on him but he is submissive to all the others. He has taken a shine to little Sunnyside and is her constant companion, much to her dismay. He has a beautiful, droopy green-feathered tail and prominent ear tufts. He is easy-going, quiet and enjoys sleeping alone on the outdoor roost, avoiding the chaos inside. He might be a keeper if we decide to keep two.

Pingu is named after a British clay-mation character from the 1990s. As a chick, he looked just like a little penguin.

Pingu is named after a British clay-mation character from the 1990s

The only one with a true rooster tail, Pingu also sports ear tufts which restrict his peripheral vision.

Pingu is the only one with a true rooster tail

Devilled – This little guy has been standoff-ish since the beginning. He was the first to hatch and was always a step ahead of the other chicks. Now as a rooster, he is Satanic. He crows constantly, starting at 5:14 am and about 483 other times during the day. He is completely black with two long tail feathers that stick up like an antenna. He has a small patch of orange on his chest – a sprinkle of paprika on his devilled egg. He is the horniest rooster I have ever met and is on the hunt for some hen-action at all times. Anytime that one of the two Tweedle sisters is near, he does his little mating dance, which they manage to deflect. At that point, he begins a 5 acre chase around the Queendom, making the girls flee in panic. Moments after he mates with one of them, he is after her again. It never ends. But really it is his constant crowing that has put him on the chopping block.

Devilled refers to a delicious egg dish that we hoped he would provide. But Devilled is a rooster who has proved to be very satanic in his ways. His crowing begins at 5:38 each morning and goes on and on and on and on all day.

Devilled refers to a delicious egg dish that we hoped he would provide. (sigh)

Probably crowing here

Probably crowing here

Skana – Skana has been social with us since day one. He is always curious about our clothes, our trips across the yard, our food and anything else human. He enjoyed a scritch when he was a chick and still enjoys it now. He is the only one of the brood to hop up on our chairs or laps for a visit. He can often been seen wandering off to new places in the yard in  search of good eats or simply sightseeing. He is friendly with all the other chickens and is the only new chick who has been allowed to flock near the adult hens. His downsides are twofold. 1) He isn’t a great protector since he is often wandering off on his own rather than watching out for the girls 2) His crow sounds like a bagpipe as it deflates at the end of a tune but luckily he does not crow often.  He is very interested in Chip but only once a day. He has silver and charcoal grey coloured feathers, a fluffy bunny tail and vibrant red wattles and comb. His eyebrows are wild and unruly above his huge black eyes. He is The Chosen One.

Named after the Orca whale of Vancouver Aquarium, Skana is a bright-eyed social fellow who is curious and liked by everyone.

With his white eye-markings, Skana is named after the female Orca whale of Vancouver Aquarium

Sleek, silver and sweet

Sleek, silver and sweet

Now that The Choosing Ceremony is done, chicken dinner will be served at about 7:30 pm. Anyone interested in some moist, tender, free-range chicken is welcome to join us.

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