…that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Flogging,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of mounting,
And by opposing strangle them: to die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream, to be awakened prematurely by crowing;
Ay, there’s the rub.
Oh, stop complaining. I could have taken that much further, trust me.
When we first decided to get chickens last spring, The Man had one firm caveat: no roosters. It seems one of our neighbours had had a rooster a few years back, pre me, and another neighbour, one right next to us, had kicked up such a fuss about the crowing that he threatened a civil lawsuit.
Now, we are zoned for chickens, including roosters. I’m not sure if he had a legal leg to stand on, but he was vocal enough and vociferous enough that The Man wanted none of it. Which was fine with me. I had no desire to be wakened at 5am, or flogged, or, if we’re being honest here, to eat chick zygote.
In the year that has passed, I have taught the basics of the birds and the bees to Stepdaughter the Elder, and she could not help but pass along the more lurid details to a horrified Stepdaughter the Younger, so I am no longer quite so concerned about explaining a rooster’s husbandly duties to them, but that was also a consideration at the time.
This all makes me seem quite the wuss to many of you chckeneers out there, I know, but there has been domestic tranquility to be found in being able to tell the girls, honestly, that no chick could ever, possibly, under any conditions, emerge from their breakfast.
Roosters certainly have their place on the farm. A good one will protect his ladies at the cost of his own life (as did our Jack in his new home), will find treats for them, will be gentle at mating, and will be patriarch to many (free) chicks.
A bad one will harass his hens mercilessly (no means no, dammit!), rip out their back feathers in so doing, and have a go at you and your children while he’s at it. There is many a rooster horror story to be found on Backyard Chickens, roosters who could only be approached with a broom or stick or by certain members of the family, roosters who flew up and left scars on faces, narrowly missing eyes, roosters who eventually earned their way into a cooking pot.
So, at 15 weeks of age, Jack went away, and, still very young, died defending his new ladies from a fox. Sniff. I have a feeling he could have been one of the good ones. And, guess what? It seems the local rooster-hater wasn’t the neighbour herself, but the boyfriend of the neightbour. The now-ex-boyfriend. Past tense.
The path is clear on that count. Knowing that, do I now want a rooster?
Not really. And, if I were to change my mind, it would be for a very well-bred gentleman of a cool breed. a true purebred Araucana (bearded and rumpless, laying true blue eggs…quite rare):
Or a British Blue Orpington (a glorious feathered basketball, right down to the feet:
It would not be a rooster of a mutt breed. Sorry. I’ll have plenty of boys next spring when the poults arrive, and one big, beautiful, well-conformed, well-behaved one will get to stay.
All of this to say…I think we have a roo. It was all there for me to see. I saw the pieces of the puzzle, but they didn’t fall together until Aoxa commented on this pic:
They have eyes but do not see…
Check out Audrey in the back right. Yes, one might miss the thicker legs (I did; Aoxa did not), but how could one miss that comb? That prominent, glowing, orange comb??!!
Ummmm…hello? Anyone home? Is this thing on?! Compare it to Ava’s, at left.
As soon as Aoxa cautioned me, all the little pieces fell into place: Audrey was the smallest of the three at first:
And now, is the largest and the most aggressive. Sigh. Audrey is Aubrey, I’m pretty sure. Chicken Debbie is dropping by this afternoon to put in her valuable two cents’ worth.
I considered keeping her/him. I’m still considering it. I could do worse than brooding Easter Eggers, and it would be very easy to tell which eggs to incubate (hint: the green ones). And Easter Egger chicks would be very easy to sell; Chicken Debbie has a day just for them every May.
The troublesome neighbour is gone, the girls know about the fundamentals of sex, and I’m up early anyway. So…why not keep him?
Okay, this is embarrassing. I still don’t want to t eat chick zygote. Sorry.
That being said, last night I was prepared to keep him if no viable, humane alternative presented itself. But one has.
When Chicken Debbie ordered this year’s batch of Easter Eggers, from which mine came, a man special ordered a roo, and his male chick died. Debbie will call him and ask if he’s interested. It seems to me that the odds are good.
The business of egg laying is brutally unkind to males. Except for a very few, they are unneeded, and their fates are generally unhappy. I spend a little more for sexed pullets, which spares me the unpleasant task of disposing of boys. But sexing chicks is more art than science, and an error ratio of 1:10 is considered predictable and acceptable. When I had a roo in twelve last year, I accepted it with good grace. But one in three?!
What can I say; it’s a gift.