Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves!

We have been killing roosters. As I've mentioned before, we have a lot of them. A week ago Saturday, Stephen killed 8, then last weekend, 10 more. We still have plenty to go.

Some of them are mean. Mean to each other, mean to us, and really mean to the hens. One scratched The Princess pretty badly the other day. I am ready to turn them all into stew. >:-(

One of the interesting things that happened after the first 8 were killed was that the pecking order was confused. A large portion of the hens had taken to congregating under some bushes a field away from the chicken house. A few roosters would hang out with them, but most of the roosters prowled around the chicken house and the back yard. After the first 8 were killed, the hens stopped going to that bush, and split into two big groups, one by the chicken house and one in the front yard. After the next ten roosters were killed, the split was solidified.

The chicken house girls learned a very clever way to keep themselves safe from the incessant attention of the roosters:

They mostly go up the ladder and fly down to the ground, but they sometimes go in and out the window. These girls mostly lay in the house, either in the nest boxes or in a corner. There is one rooster up on the scaffolding in this picture, but that is a pretty rare sight.

The other group is in the front. Remember Queen Suzanne, the Cornish Rock hen with a long history of barely escaping death? As I wrote a few weeks ago, Molly the Australian Shepherd is her self-appointed guardian, chasing off roosters, and even licking her wounds in the early days. For weeks Suzanne spent much of her time under the carport in a dog crate with hay for bedding and food and water, just to keep her safe from roosters and give her a chance to heal. Eventually she was well enough, Molly was vigilant enough, and perhaps the roosters were reduced enough that she wasn't being jumped on constantly, so we stopped putting her in the crate. She had become accustomed to the front by then, and roosted under the carport at night.

Molly expanded her sense of duty to include the hens who started hanging around Suzanne. At first we noticed one faithful RI Red Hen who would show up every day. Lady Robert. Soon the Lady stayed with Suzanne at night under the carport instead of returning to the hen house in back. One day I realized that there were a lot of hens staying in the front, and Molly was defending them so well that only a few roosters ever spent much time out there. These boys continue to visit the front and are about as gentlemanly as roosters can be. The rabble stays in the back, squawking and fighting and strutting about.

It is pretty fascinating to me that Molly and the hens have bonded against the roosters. I suppose I am anthropomorphising here, but the little feminist who lives in the dungeon of my past pipes up: "You go girls!" :-D

In reality, Molly adores me (undeserving though I am), and is very intelligent, so undoubtedly grasped the point when I spent days chasing roosters away from Suzanne at the beginning when I'd let her out to peck around in the grass. Still, it is cool that these critters have figured out how to survive, and more interestingly, how to help each other survive.

The split in the hens has led to some interesting egg laying spots. The scaffolding girls lay in the hen house, as I mentioned. The dog house remains a favorite for the carport girls, an occasional egg is found in a recycling box or straight on the ground, the jogging stroller sees at least two new eggs a day, and the most startling find was a solid 13 eggs on a feed bag! I actually watched a hen lay an egg there, and was shocked when she stood up!! I was careful with that find, smelling each egg before cooking, and had to toss three, so I think we had somehow overlooked this spot for a few days.

Today we broke our previous daily egg record... 23! We have to figure out something... I have 9 dozen eggs in my fridge! Time to start finding customers.

Want some eggs?


shannon said...

It's nice to ehar that some of your girlss don't come in every night - even after three days of being cooped up, a small faction of the hens seem to be roosting in the trees - now I just need to figure out where they're laying their eggs. (the plastic tubs the cats sleep in are a favorite here) Good job on the roosters - I'm sure the girls are happier already! Start hanging up signs - I was surprised how many customers we already have - and now the only eggs piling up are for a super big order that I'm delivering on the 18th. Do you have diff. colors?

Patti said...

We have three shades of brown, with an occasional speckled egg thrown in. No white or green/blue. Next batch of layers we'll get some Araucanas for fun. I've heard that most of the white layers are flighty and temperamental. Do you have any experience with the lighter breeds? Would be interested to hear opinions.

When you say hang out signs... Did you put out flyers, or hang a sign at your gate, or...? One idea that is kind of intriguing is putting a cooler out and doing the honor system. Big problem I see with that is that we are in Texas and it is going to be high maintenance trying to keep them cool, even with the cooler.