Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How to Have a Nice Rooster--Outside of a Stewpot! (Tuesday, Feb. 15)

Our first Ameraucana rooster, Carmen, became so vicious as he grew up that I took him back to the feed store where I bought the chicks.  So when Wren, my favorite Ameraucana chick, showed signs of becoming a rooster, I was dismayed.  I wondered if we should just butcher him along with the Naked Necks, but Kara suggested I give him a chance.  We could always send him to the stewpot later on, she pointed out.

Several things seemed to be working in Wren's favor.  He was one of 31 chickens, seventeen of them roosters, so statistics alone would make it unlikely that he would be at the top of the pecking order.  (He's the black and white chick at left.)
Indeed, as the Naked Necks matured earlier and the little cockerels faced off with each other, Wren was never one of the combative ones.  Eventually one of them became "Top Dog," while another group of fairly dominant roosters hung out together.  Wren was down the totem pole in a third group of bachelors that stayed together rather peacefully--far away from the more dominant roosters.
When all the "Top Roos" disappeared in one day, leaving Wren to inherit the remaining harem, he seemed unsure of his position.  Gypsy, Esmerelda, and Victoria (the three mature Ameraucana hens) tended to boss him around and refused to listen to his leadership.  Even some of the "Little Chickens" refused to follow Wren home into the brooder house at night.  Then one night I heard crowing coming from inside the coop--and there was Wren with the "Big Girls."  Apparently he had decided he liked older women better!  From then on, Wren began behaving like a rooster.  He kept order among the girls, put an end to them picking on each other, and led them foraging farther and wider than they had ever done on their own.  I was truly happy we had kept him, and I told Herb that I thought the key to having a nice rooster was keeping one that had been low on the totem pole.
And then I blew it!  One beautiful sunny afternoon I was taking pictures of the chickens, and I sat down on the ground to get close-ups of Wren's beautiful plumage.
He came quite close to me, looked right into the camera lens, and seemed to handle stardom really well.  "What a nice rooster!" I thought to myself!
But the next day, as I stepped up into the brooder house, Wren pounced and pecked at my ankle. I know that it is essential that a rooster respect ME as the "Top Roo" if we are to live in harmony, so I kicked at him. Immediately, he attacked, again and again! He flew at me repeatedly, with his claws aiming right at me. I kicked back at him six or eight times, trying to back my way to an aluminum ladder in the shed, but he kept attacking so continuously that I wasn't sure I could reach the ladder. Finally I did, kicking Wren away while I unwedged the ladder to swing it at him. It connected, knocking him away--and back he came again! In the end, I had to hit him with the ladder three times before he finally ran away and left me in peace.
Someone who grew up with roosters told me that once they attack, you can never break them of the habit, and you might as well turn them into stew.  Since Wren had never attacked either Herb or Kara, I was pretty sure that it was my foolish behavior in coming down to his level that made him think he could dominate me.  I decided to see if I could convince him that I am the Top Roo--thus keeping him out of the stewpot!
So the next time I went outside, I carried a metal stake for staking up young trees.  The top end has a finial which makes it a bit like a lightweight golf club when held upside down.  As long as I was near Herb, Wren seemed fine, but I wondered if it was only because he wouldn't mess with my Rooster-Herb.  Sure enough, as soon as I moved away, Wren came after me!  I wheeled around and whacked him with my tree stake, knocking him off his feet.  He came back again and yet a third time, and each time I knocked him away.  Finally, third time the charm--he ran off.

Since then Wren has seemed afraid of me, but I keep a stick or bucket handy when I go out, something to make up for me not having spurs--something that he will respect.  Hopefully, Wren has learned his lesson, that I am the Top Roo--and he can keep his good home and stay out of the stewpot!  Believe me, I've learned MY lesson, too!  I will never again come down to a rooster's level!
While the salvation of Wren was in progress, Herb was hard at work on the chicken coop.
By the end of the day, he had all four sides framed up and was putting the rafters in place.  Once it's done, we'll have to see if Wren knows his place--in more ways than one!

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