Troubling Times

Double Dots, my three year old Golden Comet rooster

A couple of weeks ago, a troubling thing happened.

I was standing in the barnyard observing my flock, as I am prone to do. Pavelle had her babies outside and I wanted to get pictures. Also, as I am prone to do.

The chickens were milling around about me, as they are prone to do.

I was holding my phone, paying more attention to Pavelle and her babies than anything else, when sudden my I heard flapping of wings and felt bird feet on the back of my head. A couple of seconds later, my head rooster, Dots, goes flying over top my head and lands on the ground next to me.

He flew at my head.

It was puzzling, to say the least. Was he attacking me? Trying to perch on my shoulder or head?

Needless to say I’ve been a little (a lot) more mindful of where he is in the barnyard when I am down there now.

And then… Yesterday it happened again. I was in the barnyard with my daughter, watching the chickens. She was holding her favorite hen. Dots was behind us on the barn stairs and suddenly starts flapping his wings and launches himself at me. He did not connect this time or get as high off the ground. But my Girl witnessed it and needless to say, we were both shocked.

This is a rooster I have raised from a baby. He usuallyets me pick him up, cuddle him, let him. He comes to the sound of his name. If I sit on the steps, he has been known to come and sit on my lap.

So, I ask myself, “what is going on with my handsome man?” Have I done something? Is he jealous of my attention paid to the younger roosters? Is he confused because I have lost 96 lbs and no longer look like the Mom who raised him?

Or is this a change in hormones or temperament?

He’s three years old, though and in that time, he has never been a bad rooster. He still is letting me pick him up and carrying him. Still likes pets, neck rubs and water massages.

I just don’t know what to make of this. I hope I don’t have to make a hard decision.

The Autumn Chicken Report

Or is it the Late Autumn Chicken Report?  Because winter is almost here people.   As reported in my last post, the chickens are in various stages of molt.  They look pathetic, although some of the earlier molters are almost feathered back.

Hopefully, the others will hurry up and NOT still be half naked by the time the snow starts sticking.

October (or rather the end of October) meant the return of Halloween, jack o’lanterns and pumpkin seeds.  I’ve always been jealous of pictures and videos of peoples’chickens pecking holes in pumpkins left out for them.  Mine do not do that. They ignore whole pumpkins like the plague and even broken up ones, they would just eat the seeds and not the pulp.

This year, however, they were more than interested in our post-Halloween offerings and devoured not only the pumpkin seeds and guts shown above, but six medium sized jack o’lanterns over the course of the first week of November.

I am glad they enjoyed it,  because in the next couple of weeks, I was tasked with the painful process of deciding which of them Summer Boys stayed and which ones were sent off to Freezer Camp.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a general weakness for roosters.   Between their beautiful plumage and strong, unique personalities, how could I not fall in love with the little buggers?  But every year, we hatch an average of 5-8 roosters and I’m only allowed to keep a minimum of three, depending on the size of my hen-to-rooster ratio.

This year, including Dots and Luke (saved from last year), we had a grand total of eights roosters.  DH said I could keep three this year, if one of them was Phillip, the smaller rooster hatched out of one of Pavelle’s little white eggs.   He is about half of Dot’s size and not likely to get much bigger.

So while the chickens were blissfully enjoying the pumpkin treats, I was looking at my roosters, talking to them, interacting with them, and trying to decide who should stay and help Dots keep his flock safe.

This is NEVER an easy decision for me, and the last time I had to do it, a mistake was made.   

I will probably never forgive myself for allowing DH to take Pip that day instead of Luke.  I miss him.  Everyday, I miss that little guy.   He was our first chick ever and worked well his father and mother in taking care of the flock.

Phillip (or Leapy as I call him sometimes), is Pip’s son from Pavelle and reminds me a lot of him, personality wise.

So, before I go into who got tickets to Freezer Camp, let me introduce to the Summer Babies.

Of these, the roosters were Philip, Gus, Cutie, Sylvester, Apache and A.J.

I have also thought at times that Darcy could really be a Mr. Darcy, but that one is either a late bloomer or a big hen.   So we aired on the side of ‘big hen’ and kept Darcy, for now.  She will winter over that will us time to see if she is really a he.  Or not.

This year, I decided to rectify the mistake of keeping Luke,making him first on the list for Freezer Camp.

We would be keeping Dots (as usual because it’s dumb to get rid of a good rooster, and I learned that the hard way with Pip) and Philip… so I had a spot for one more keeper.

The candidates I was deciding from were Cutie ( a light barred rock from Little Dude’s incubator project) and Sylvester, the only hatched buff brahma.  Of the Summer Boys those two were my favorites.   Cutie because he was so incredibly beautiful and Sylvester because he was raised by my Tweety girl and has always been friendly.

Like last time, I simply couldn’t decide right up til the end.  What it came down to was which one could I pick up without too much hassle.  Cutie always fights me until I got him in my arms.  But then he would settle in.   But he would still fight me.  So on Freezer Camp day, I made the decision in favor of keeping Sylvaster and letting Cutie go.

I hope that it doesn’t turn out like the Luke vs Pip decision.   I really don’t.   I couldn’t take that again.

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Incidentally, it really wasn’t “freezer camp” this year.  We decided to can them instead and got 9 jars, 8 pints and 1 quart of meat out of them.   They will be used to make soups and stews and maybe to grind up for chicken salad.   

 

The last thing we needed to do was give little Not Cocoa a better name.   She is part Easter Egger (because Luke is her papa) and part Rhode Island Red.   We called her Not Cocoa because we named Cocoa first and she is… not Cocoa.

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How hard is it to come up with a good name for me?  I’m adorable!

 

So we’ve been debating it a while, and finally, on Thanksgiving, we came up with a suitable name… Nutmeg.

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Lastly, I’ll leave you all with a picture of Double Dots and his ladies enjoying their Thanksgiving morning breakfast of oatmeal mixed with scratch grain, BOSS, meal worms and cranberries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rooster Mani Pedis 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that one of my hens – a spirited and friendly little girl named Maicey – was injured, presumably by a rooster spur.  We have roosters, two of which have spurs, so this is a good likelihood.

Given that Maicey’s favorite rooster is our main rooster, Double Dots, I’m going to assume that it was him.  Dots is a 2 year old golden comet rooster, also known as a gold sexlink.  He does have long spurs, but thankfully not overly long.

Over the last couple of days, in between treating Maicey’s wound and shuttling my son to baseball games, I have been researching the best methods of trimming or removing rooster spurs.

The first is the Baked Potato Method, in which you basically shove the spur into a hot baked potato and keep it there for two-or-so minutes.

This method is demonstrated here:

Another good method is with a pair of pliers, twisting the spur off at the base:

You may also grind them down with a dremel tool, as demonstrated here:

None of these are the method I used. Not because they aren’t all good, but because I knew it was just going to be me and my Girl doing the trimming.

Instead of full removal (baked potato or pliers methods), we went with a simple trim, with dog nail clippers and a metal nail file, and followed the basic instructions, outlined here, by the Chicken Chick, to remove 1/4 – 1/3 of the nail.

After you have decided on a method that works for you and assembled the tools you will need, you need to consider your rooster.  You know him the best, after all.  The videos above are all done in the day time, but a lot of people recommend going to get your rooster at night, in the dark after he has gone to roost.

Why?  Because he will be easier to catch and handle when he is sleeping.

In the case of Double Dots, this is not so much of a consideration.   He is quite possibly the gentlest rooster ever.  I can walk out into the pasture, scoop him up in my arms and carry him around like a toddler.    Pip and the other boys are a bit different, so I’ll have to figure out what works best with them.

img_2095I started by plopping Dots in the sink and washing his feet and spurs.   I also took the time to examine his feet for sores or anything else.  You might as well, while you have access to clean chicken feet.

As you can see, Dots just stood there like he was king of the world.   He’s not even bothered that he’s not with his hens, or that he’s in the kitchen, or just had his feet washed.

He’s not causing a fuss or anything.

His spurs are not as big as some of the spur-removal videos out there, but the one is/was really sharp and pointy.

I sat in a chair, wrapped Dots in a towel, and my Girl did the clipping.  She did about 1/4 of each spur, and then used the file to blunt them so they weren’t as sharp.

My Girl wanted to paint his toe nails, too, because he was just so chill about the whole thing.

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Clipped and rounded down.  🙂

I do not anticipate the same experience with Pip.   He lets me pick him, but only if he’s on the window ledge or a roost.  I can’t just walk up and tuck him under an arm like I can his papa.

So again… please take your rooster’s individual behavior and personality into account when you prepare for this.  You know him best.

You may also want to have a styptic powder or corn starch on on hand.  If you cut too far on the spur, you can cause them to bleed, kind of like a dog’s nail will if you cut past the quick.

 

My Boys 

Okay, so… last week, my hens decided it would be fun to do their dirt bathing in the ashes left over from the burn pile.   They came out of it covered in soot.  All the white hens were gray, all the  Sexlinks and RiRs were various shades “muddy” or “moldy.”  (I don’t know how to describe it.  They look bad.)  And even though it has rained the last few days, they still look filthy.  If I didn’t have so many of them, I’d be tempted to give baths.

But since the girls are unfit for pictures, we will have to make due with pictures of my boys.

Currently, there are four of them.

My handsome Double Dots, as you all know. He’s a golden sexlink, also called a Golden Comet.   I’ve talked about him before.  A lot.  Dots is the father of Pip….

… who was our first-hatch chick, and the oldest of the “2nd generation” flock.

They have an odd sort of relationship.   Pip has a lot of respect for his papa, which is probably good because he grew up alone, with no same-aged hatch mates to back him up when he stepped out of line. Dots and the Aunties (the others hens) put him in his place a lot from the age of 9-weeks to 1 year.

Now the Aunties kind of like and he and Dots work together to protect the flock.  They don’t fight, that I’ve seen anyway.  Dots does chase Pip, if he catches him mating or whatever, but it’s usually only a few feet and then he stops.   They tolerate each other on the roosts at night.

And they BOTH take Felix to task.

Felix (who used to be Felicia, but clearly is NOT a hen) is gen 3 for this rooster dynasty, as I believe he is Pip’s son, born of one of the Buff Orpingtons.  I only guess Buff Orp for the mama because he really isn’t red like the RiR-cross chicks.

image Let’s look at Dani (the red rooster show here), in comparison. This is a younger picture, but he was a deep deep red by the time he went to freezer camp.

Felix started out as a cinnamon colored chick, looked butter scotchy as a teen, and while his reds are coming out (Pip’s mother was RiR), he doesn’t have the same depth or shade of red as Dani.

And since we’ve established that Pip+Australorp gives me the Dalmies (Pongo and Perdie),that really only leaves my two Buff Orpingtons as potential mommas.

Felix has yet to find a place in the flock that suits him.  Both Dots and Pip chase him if goes after the ladies and tries to mate. Part of that is because Dots naturally assumes all the ladies are his, and part because the ladies don’t want to mate with Felix.  He chases, pulls neck feathers and is awkward. The girls run, squawk, and scream until Dots or Pip (or both) go after him.  In other words, he’s where Pip was last summer.  Poor boy.

Some of the bolder hens peck at him, especially at bed time, and I have cleaned and fixed up minor comb injuries as the result of their pecking.

Sadly, he kind of brings it on himself and I don’t know what to tell the poor kid.  Not that he’d 1) listen or 2) understand me, him being a chicken and all.  So he’s just going to muddle his way through this on his own.

At least until his fate is decided.

A friend of mine named him Felicia, and I think she would prefer I keep him around so she can see him the next time she visits.  I have talked to her about it and she has been trying to find a place for him somewhere near her (in Indiana)but let’s face it.  With the threat of avian flu, it’s not likely too many people will want a rooster from an unknown flock out of state.  Even a mostly tame one.

However, I’m included to keep him and see how it goes.  If he can find a balance with his papa and grandpapa (Pip and Dots respectively), and my hens don’t start getting over mated, then by all means… he could stay.  We’re talking about adding more babies later this spring anyway.  (More on that later.)

But there is this little (not so little) guy to consider.

Luke, formerly Leia. Who started crowing not to long ago and hasn’t stopped since.

I mentioned previously that Luke and his sister, Padme, where scared of going outside.   Padme has gotten over it.  She is finally starting to realize that she is a hen and should be outside doing Hen Things.

Luke?  He’s not too sure about this concept of outside hen things.  He will stay inside, sit on the roost and crow for her (or someone else) to join him.  He has a loud, bold as brass little “Ooo-oo-Oooo!” (Because it’s not quite an Rrr-r-Rrr yet.)  and sometime she does come back.   Sometimes he gives up and goes outside to find her.

What’s interesting to me is that Dots allows Luke to do his Ooo-oo-Ooo.

Last spring when little Black Jack was learning to crow (at 9 weeks, not 20 like Luke), Dots assumed it was a threat to his dominance and went on the offensive. I had to rehome little Jack just to keep him safe and ensure a peaceful integration.

But Luke,having been hatched by Abby, raised as a winter baby (like Pip), is not a stranger. He and Dots both crow for me every morning when I go to let them outside.  He crows for me (or, for his sister, or for whomever…) when he is in the coop… and sometimes when he is outside.  He crows more than Pip does.  And definitely more than Felix does.

I wonder if my scaredy little EE isn’t going to turn out to be more dominant of the 3 younger roosters?

Or if Dots just hasn’t noticed because he has been more focused on keeping Felix and Pip in their places?

I am hoping that things stay peaceful.   Again, we are talking about adding more chicks this year… Little Dude wants to hatch Barred Rocks for 4-H.  So if things stay peaceful, and the hens aren’t getting overmated… well, I’d like to keep all four of them as see how it goes

This past Fall, we sent Dani, plus Abby’s four young rooster (my Boys of Summer) to the Freezer Camp. I kept for a long while, hoping that someone would buy or otherwise take the Sumtaler’s off my hands.  But in the meantime, Dots and Pip got very spoiled by having a lot of ‘extra eyes’ watching over the girls.  There were roosters with hens everywhere.  So Dots could spend time with his favorite ladies and forget that he ‘had to chase Pip’ and yet, there was back up in case of unforeseen danger.

I have noticed since their departure from the flock, that Dots and Pip seemed to have their “hands” full with the ladies.  Both of them in the coop while most the hens were outside. Who’s looking after the ladies?

So I think that one or two more roosters won’t hurt, provided they all get along and don’t hurt the hens.  Currently, Felix spends a lot of time outside with the hens.  He is trying to impress them.  A couple of them will squat for him to mate with now.  Most of them still find him annoying.  But again, they thought the same things about Pip last year.

So we’re going to try it.  See how things go, and decide from there if the dynamics need to change or the flock needs thinning.

And now, because I can… here’s Luke making funny faces at the camera:

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Father and Sons

I just wanted to share this post, because I have the best roosters in the world.  


Double Dots, my Golden Comet (aka sexlink) rooster.  He’s a year and a half old and the ‘papa’ of the coop.  

Pip, his oldest son, who is now 10 and a half months old.  Pip is his father’s right hand man, a protective big brother and learning to be a good boyfriend to the hens.  

Dani, (I should call him Danny now but he’s been Dani so long and it sounds the same so he doesn’t know he has a girl name.) who is just trying to earn a place.  He’ll probably wind up in Freezer Camp, sadly, but he’s starting to grow into himself.   

Do you see the family resemblance between father and sons?  

Do you have roosters you think are ‘the best in the world’?  

Tell me about them.  

Pip Answers the Call

Pip guards the gate, fervently watching for intruders from beyond the tall grass. In the distance, Double Dots calls outs to the flock. His papa, his leader, his mentor. Pip answers the call.

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I’ve been waiting for so long now to hear Pip’s crow.  Dots had his for so long, and then Black Jack.  And now one of the other Little Roo-lings has been crowing.  But aside from DH and Sad claiming to have heard him, I have not.  

This morning, I heard my Pip Chick loud and clear. 

My ‘baby boy’ is a boy no longer.  He is a man!