© Another Day in the Country
This past summer when I ordered chickens in August, instead of in the spring like I usually do, there were changes in the air. I was thinking about the look on my grandson’s face when those chicks arrived in the mail. I didn’t think about summer being a more difficult trip for the chicks or about chickens coming of age in the winter with long nights and short days, completely “fowling” up their body clock. (I just couldn’t resist that pun.)
The hatchery that I’ve always used has a minimum order of 24 chicks. I always thought that number represented a “huddle factor” with that many chicks needed to keep each other warm in their little cardboard box; but I’m not sure that’s the reason at all. Maybe it’s just a marketing tool. There is also an offer of a “mystery chick” of unknown ethnicity and sex that is offered FREE! Who can resist FREE? Not me! I’m always curious about different kinds of chickens and this is a chance to be introduced to something new.
One time, the mystery chick turned out to be my favorite rooster, Clifford. He was a shy little chick, tail heavy in adolescence, an unusual little guy in the midst of all my Auracana girls, until he reached adult status; and then he was a gentle beauty with cascades of iridescent feathers and the sweetest nature. Later, I discovered he was a Single Comb Brown.
On the order form for my summer chicks they asked, “Will you accept substitutions?” They don’t hatch as many varieties of chicks in the late summer months, so I agreed, as long as they didn’t send big hulking varieties that could dominate my slighter-built hens of choice AND (now this is a critical factor) “only female.”
I’d ordered six Single Comb Brown Leghorns (one male) and the rest Auracanas (the Easter egg chickens with delightfully colored eggs). Right from the start we could see that there were some very different chicks included in our batch.
It took awhile for them to grow up. (That would be until now, four-plus months.) What I feared a couple of months ago, is now evident. I don’t just have the one Single Comb Brown rooster that I ordered or the one usually male mystery chick. Out of my 25 chicks I have six roosters. Big birds. Beautiful birds.
Last week I was so mad at them that I banished two of them from the hen house and told them, “You’re on your own.” I was hoping the Town Fox was still in residence and sent telepathic messages inviting her to a chicken dinner; but she didn’t show. Those two trouble making roosters were outside for over a week before I relented and let them back in — definitely chastened.
With a ratio of 3 to 1, the hens are driven crazy, submission bred into their being; but there’s always one or two that refuse. They then seem to be the target of all the males trying to prove a point, over and over. The squaaaaking is ear splitting, the tumult is endless, the chauvinistic behavior is unforgivable and I’ve been trying to find someone to “off” some roosters, to no avail.
Poor Aunt Sue, who used to rule the roost with Mary in the small house, looks haggard and is about to have a nervous breakdown. Mary just ducks when she sees those roosters coming and says, “Get it over with.”
Doesn’t anyone butcher anymore? The answer is evidently, “No.” I’ve put up signs offering “Free Fryers.” I’ve had friends asking friends and ferreting out old-timers at church who might want a fresh chicken dinner. We’ve had hunters — several batches of them over the past couple of months at the B&B — and I tried to get them to kill my extra roosters. They’d joke about it; but nobody will do the deed. I guess they don’t think it’s sporting. A couple of them suggested taking them out to the fields where they were hunting pheasant and see if they’d fly up!
I’m about to dump those roosters, on their own, out in some field far away from civilization. It’s a shame, they are so pretty, but they’re a quarrelsome lot and not being a butcher myself, I’m at my wits end. Harried or not, my little hens are beginning to lay; but who can lay peaceful eggs when a rooster is always trying to get on your back? The girls try to hide in the nest boxes or stay up on the roosts, attempting to steer clear of the gladiators down below on the floor of the hen house; but they’ve got to eat.
It’s another day in the country and I’ve had it! If you happen to see Earl Gray, big and beautiful, looking like an owl, the White Knight with a superior attitude, the Sultan with a persecution complex, or Poor Harold with long legs, a loud crow and a crooked tail, they were probably mine! Perhaps they’ll find solace with a young prairie chicken or breed something new into the pheasant population. Ah, well, desperate situations call for desperate measures.