Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pin-Up Rooster

Roosters are not always welcome in urban settings. They tend to make a lot of noise at the most inappropriate times. They don't really just crow when dawn breaks. Sometimes they jump the gun because they just like the sound of their own voice. There's a reason they put roosters on weather VANES: Because they think so very highly of themselves.

Adolescent Cadbury: Rooster incognito
We did not intend to have a rooster, but chicks are notoriously hard to tell apart. You can improve your chances of getting a hen if you don't buy straight run (that means that no one has "sexed" the chicks--you're just taking your chances). But even if you choose your chicks from supposedly all pullets (hens-to-be) you still have about a 10 to 20 percent chance of ending up with a rooster instead of a hen.

The girls really wanted a Cuckoo Marans hen--a breed of chicken that lays very dark, mahogany colored eggs. "Chocolate" eggs. So one of the chicks we brought home was a Marans. M&L named her Cadbury, in reference to the eggs they anticipated.

Cadbury grew very fast. In fact, Cadbury began to get bigger than some of the hens we'd had longer. And then, Cadbury began to crow. A little like a gawky adolescent boy, croaky and tentative. Then he really found his voice. He also bossed the hens around. They'd be busily scratching, looking for bugs, foraging for food, and he'd be walking around wondering if anyone else had noticed how impressive he was. He chased Gertie in circles while she protested noisily, and pecked at the other hens as if that was an effective courtship strategy. One of L's friends, while visiting, suggested maybe we should change his name from Cadbury to Cluck Norris. But when he began crowing at 4 a.m., it became relatively obvious that Cadbury/Cluck Norris's days were numbered.

We had a very short discussion about possibly letting Cadbury reach roaster size and then processing him. That discussion came to a tearful halt within about 10 seconds. Thankfully, Kirk's sister offered to give Cadbury a home in the country with her flock of hens.

A couple of days later, Cadbury was carefully placed in a large dog crate in the car. For about half the drive to his new home, he made little clucky hen sounds, as if trying to convince us that, hey, no, really, he was a hen. Then he lost all composure and crowed the last 15 minutes of the ride.

He settled in fine. His tail feathers are growing out in decorative curls (except where a hen removed a few feathers to keep him in line). And in exchange we took home two sweet little Bantam hens--Oreo and Clover.

Cadbury might be a little deflated to know that the hens didn't seem to miss him. At all. But just to be sure that the rooster-less flock wasn't completely without a handsome cockerel, M&L carried home a find from a local thrift shop: a gold-framed portrait of a very regal (and silent) rooster. It hangs just over their waterer, a pin-up rooster in the hen house.

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