First impressions often are misleading. You can know someone for a long time, and you are confident you have them pegged, then something occurs to make you realize they are a totally different sort of person than what you originally believed. Shakes you to discover how wrong you were all along.
But who’d a thought that would prove the case with chickens too?
Those of you who have been around a long time might remember how badly I coveted a rooster once I decided to try the country lifestyle on for size. I bought a half dozen chicks, hoping one or two might turn out male. As it turned out, only one small bannie turned out male and he had only a teeny crow – hardly satisfying for a girl who wants a boisterous crow for an alarm clock. Therefore, I went out and bought Joe, a big, strapping rooster. You can’t have more than one rooster unless they are free range and you should provide many, many females to keep them happy. Confined together, roosters will fight. It’s nature’s way (thus the basis for illegal cockfights.) However, I was lucky. My pint sized rooster and my big, bossy rooster seemed to get along fine in their pen. I plan to let my chickens out to free range in the spring anyway, so I just need them to remain happy for a few more months.
The other day, we heard crowing. Oddly, it wasn’t as loud as Joe’s usual song or as delicate as little Pot Pie’s. Mark and I started arguing about which bird was making the racket. We crept around the corner to prove which of us was right, and don’t ya know, but it was Phyllis (Ahem, now he’s a Phil, I guess.) Phil is one of the wild afro headed fancy chickens that I bought six months ago. He’s sprouted those red jowls under his chin and the feathers around his neck have grown long, covering his chest like a magnificent mane. I guess puberty’s finally caught up with him, revealing itself the week I was in Boston.
I was shocked. Delighted. Amazed. It took six months for this maleness to reveal itself. But now that it’s come out of the closet, there is no turning back. Uh Oh.
The new Phil started crowing more than any of the other roosters. I thought he was just flexing his new male muscles, proving his manhood or something. I watched carefully, but the three roosters didn’t seem inclined to fight, so things looked amicable, at least for now.
Then, I discovered why I was hearing that new crowing so much. HE wasn’t the only one testing out his new crow. The other afro-head fancy chicken was crowing too. No physical changes in this one yet. In looks, he still appears to be a chicken, but obviously not. I stared at this bird, checking time and again to confirm that that sound was really coming from him- surely I must be seeing things. Diller can’t also a rooster! But apparently, he is. Holly Cow.
Now, I have four confirmed boys- only three girls. And I keep staring at my two silkies imagining they are going to bust out in a big cock a doodle doo any time now too. Ee-gad. I am drowning in roosters! Mark keeps saying, “I think the black silkie is a boy too.” I don’t know if he really believes this, or he likes to torture me. He has a devious smile every time he mentions it. Only a shallow man could find my rooster delimma entertaining, and I told him just that.
In a way it all makes sense. Here I was thinking my chickens are big egg-laying slackers. Umm….. considering boys don’t lay eggs, I guess it’s pretty clear why I haven’t stumbled upon any eggs yet. The question is, will I ever? Ee-gad. What if they are ALL roosters!
Next thing I knew, the two newly mature roosters started fighting – just small squabbles, but I was pretty sure it’d only be a matter of time until things would escalates. I’d have to get rid of a few roosters. Shit. I am now totally attached to these birds, ya know, and when someone around these parts is willing to take a fully grown rooster, it’s usually for the dinner table.
My best friend, Jody, was in town visiting the weekend I got home from my residency. Her son moved up here last year and his girlfriend just had a baby, making Jody a new grandmother. Anyway, when she visits she and her son (Kent’s dearest friend) stay with us. I always look forward to and enjoy her time up here. We take walks, ride the horses and talk till we are hoarse. Anyway, she was with me when we discovered Diller was another boy.
She said, “I think he’s a cool looking bird. I’d take him home with me if I had a cage I could fit in the car.” Oddly enough, Jody already has a pet chicken at home that hangs out in her yard. And it just so happens I have an extra cage. Mark recently found it under the cabin, and because it was slightly rusty, he told Kent to throw it into the burn pit. I saw it and thought “no way are you gonna toss a perfectly good cage”. I rescued it, thinking with all the animals we have and will have, we can always use another cage, rusty or not. What do ya know? Seems like fate to me.
The next day, we loaded the bird in the rusty cage into the back of Jody’s car for the long drive back to Florida. It was crowing all morning, as if he wanted to assure me he was positively male and I had made the right decision letting him go to the land of sunshine. He will have a girl all to himself now. Great luck for a slow-to-mature bird, don’t you agree?
So, I have three roosters now, which I admit, makes me a tad nervous. And I suddenly feel sadly chicken deprived. Next month, the first shipment of new spring chicks becomes available. I plan to bite the bullet and pay the big bucks for pre-sexed chicks – that way I KNOW I’m buying egg-layers. Non-sexed birds are about 3.00 each and you take your chances. To assure I get girls I’ll have to shell out a whopping 4.50 a head this year. Ah well, that is the kind of financial sacrifice I must be willing to make to get what I want. You see, other people don’t care what they get. The girls become egg provides and the boys become fryers. Personally, I love boys too much to be the instrument of their demise. So, I’ll practice what is the equivalent of chicken birth control to keep my poultry morals intact.
Now you may ask, how many girls will I buy? LOTS! I figure with three boys (and who knows what to expect from those sneaky silkies) I need lots of tail to keep everyone crowing. We will be overrun with eggs by the time I’m done, but what’s a girl to do? That is the cost of Rooster over-compensation.
Ya just never know when life is gonna throw you a curve.