Hard Choices.

The emergence of COVID-19 is impacting people in many ways. Everyone is struggling with some aspect of this virus, whether it be health or financial issues. The hardships that affect people are real, hard, and at times painful.

This blog is about the joys of keeping backyard chickens. For the majority of the part, keeping backyard chickens brings more joy than sorrow. However, in times of hardship decisions have to be made that one would rather no think about. If I told you that you will never experience this as a keeper I would be lying. That being said, this post is dedicated to 6 roosters that made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the flock.

As COVID-19 has gripped the nation bring it to a stall, people have found themselves in the unfortunate situation where they have to prepare for the worst. Almost in unison entire population flocked to the stores in attempts to stock up on necessities for the upcoming pandemic crises. While preparing your self is a prudent move many took it too far depleting the stores and market of essential items. While toilet paper and paper towels oddly enough were hit items, other items were in high demand as well.

For me, one of the items that I need most is chicken feed. Before the pandemic hit I quietly and methodically stocked up on chicken feed. Buying enough for a few weeks, giving me a head start on the impending impact.

As days have turned into weeks, chicken feed is getting harder to come by. The stores were so blitzed that getting restocked is taking longer than expected. As soon as the stores get a shipment in, it disappears leaving some chicken keepers in a state of desperation.

I am unfortunately one of those backyard chicken keepers who have realized that supply is not meeting demand. I have a rather large flock, about 50 birds or so. Up till now this has never been a problem as I have found that providing for them is not an issue. Until now.

Due to the effect of COVID-19 and hoarding, I am having a hard time getting ahold of the quantity of chicken feed needed to sustain my flock. It’s in the face of this supply impact that I have had to make one of the hardest decisions for the better of my flock.

It has become increasingly clear that in order to adequately provide for my flock I need to reduce their numbers. In my wildest dreams I never saw myself contemplating such a thought. After trying other options first such as trying to find them new homes I was faced with the realization that no one right now wants roosters, they want hens. For much the same reason I have hens, I can understand their position. Out of options I knew the only choice I had left was to cull my access boys.

I have 18 roosters all with different purposes. Some I have for breeding, others for show, a few for flock protection and 6 that are unassigned. The unassigned group were placed in a bachelor pen till a situation arose in which I needed them. It was these 6 that I decided were the best candidates to cull thereby allowing the chicken feed to go farther.

I could hardly believe what I was thinking but at the same time I knew that it was the only way I could provide for my flock. After spending some time with my boys thanking them for their sacrifice I humanly dispatched them.

It was the hardest thing that I ever had to do. I love these boys but I also knew that under the circumstances gripping the nation right now I had to reduce the number of my chickens to adequately provide for the rest.

I cried, in disbelief that times have become so hard that I have to cull some of my roosters. Taking an animals life is never easy, it should never be taken lightly. The day that taking a life becomes easy we have lost our humanity and compassion for our fellow creatures.

I have dispatched birds before usually when they are sick, gravely injured or suffering. I humanely and painlessly end their life providing them the last gift of love that I can. I never thought I would ever have to use this method on perfectly healthy roosters that I intended to keep.

One by one, I thanked them for their sacrifice then quickly and painlessly ended their life. I have struggled with this ever since I knew that I had to make this hard choice. But in the end, I have to remember that they lived a spoiled life, were loved and departed this world by a loving owner who took care that they did not suffer in their final moments.

During this time of uncertainty and hardship we are all going to have to make some hard choices. I hope in the future that I never have to make a choice like this again. But as a chicken owner I have a responsibility to the animals that I keep. I have the responsibility to care for them and provide for all of their needs. I was forced into a corner by the impacts of COVID-19, in order to adequately feed my flock I needed to reduce their numbers.

Keeping backyard chickens has brought great joy to my life. I have loved every minute that I get to spend with my flock and relish taking care of them. But with that comes a responsibility and at times some hard choices. I know that what I did was the right thing but its never easy. My boys made the ultimate sacrifice so that their friends could live. I will never take ending an animals life lightly, I will however end their life humanely without suffering. It’s the last gift of love that I can give to any of my guys or gals. To the 6 boys, thank you for everything. Fly high guys, fly high. You were loved and sent into the great beyond by hands of love and compassion.

My Favorite Rooster Breeds

When acquiring a backyard chicken flock, most people chose a flock of ladies. But for those who want a rooster or two but are apprehensive as to which bread to choose, this post is for you.

My flock total clocks in at around 50, 30 or so hens and around 20 gents. The majority of my gents are broken up into four bachelor pens. A bachelor pen is a coop/pen assigned to just roosters. There are no ladies with the gents in their bachelor digs. Contrary to prevailing opinion, roosters can and do cohabitate well together. But there are some tricks to it. To learn about bachelor pens chick here . The rest of the gents are broken up amongst the coops that contain the ladies. I have three large coops that house my girls, within each of these pens I have two roosters. These gents care for and protect the ladies while they are out in the backyard free ranging. That means on any given day when the ladies are outside, I have 6 roosters in the yard with them.

For anyone who associates roosters with the nasty, blood thristy and aggressive barnyard bird stereotype, you may be thinking, that’s a lot of testosterone to have running around uncontained. Or is it?

Roosters unfortunately fall prey to a negative stereotype however, in reality they are not as aggressive as many think. Many people think roosters are as bad to the bone as they come, I beg to differ. Have you ever met a broody hen?

The roosters of yesteryear that haunt the dreams of those who have had negative encounters with them are often plagued by the game cock or other game birds. Yes, those guys can be a bit high strung and aggressive. However, due to the variety of breeds available the majority of roosters today are very docile and calm. Gone are the days of your grandparents flock which contained the rooster that starred in your nightmares. Many people today keep chickens for fun and eggs. Although some keep chicken for meat the majority of keepers are hobby enthusiasts. Thus, the breeds available today are suited for these purposes. That being said, below I will detail my favorite rooster breeds and why. So without further ado, let’s begin.

Buff Orphington:

The first stud that I will present for condiseration is the Orphington. My very first rooster was Roy, he was my first introduction to the worth and value of a rooster to a flock. Orphingtons as a breed are known as the “Golden Retrievers” of the chicken world. Their demeanor is calm, friendly, and low key. They are big balls of feathers, looking bigger than they actually are. Roy was much the same. He had a job to do and took it seriously but he was a gently giant. In my presence he was very calm and relaxed. He would beg me for treats that he could then distribute to his ladies. He was in one word a gentlemen. One day I witnessed his heroic efforts to save my girls from a hawk. He was prepared to lay down his life for his ladies until I heard his frantic call and came to his rescue. Had I not heard his cry that day I hate to think what I would have come home to. Lucky I was home and chased the hawk off of him. He made a full recover from his injuries and lived on several more years as the decorated protector of the flock. He passed away several years ago. I never thought I would miss a rooster so much. He taught me a lot about chickens and about the sacrificial nature of a rooster. Ever since Roy I have fallen in love with roosters. They are today one of my favorite creatures worthy of all the respect and admiration they deserve.

Cochin:

The next stud to introduce you to is Enigma. Enigma is a Motted Cochin Bantam. Like the Orphingtons, Cochins are also big balls of feathers. The cochin is a very docile and friendly breed. They girls make excellent mothers and the gents make excellent roosters. No bigger than he is, Enigma has established himself as the alpha rooster of the chicken yard, all the other guys answer to him. He is a very sweet rooster and takes very good care of his girls. He is calm around humans and will even allow me to pick him up for his health inspections without much issue. He too will beg me for treats that he can offer to his girls. He allows the girls to eat first and then if there is anything left he will partake. When free ranging outside he will often follow me hoping that I can give him a morsel to take to his favorite lady. I often time feel like a vending machine waiting to fill his order. Out of all my boys, Enigma is my favorite.

Polish:

These next guys with the fabulous hair are Polishes. Polishes are my favorite breed, I have more of them than any other breed on my farm. The Polishes are known as the “comedians” of the chicken world. As a breed the they are very curious and high strung. Due to their fabulous crests, their vision is limited thus everything spooks them, simple objects like their own dinner, coop mates, or surroundings will startle them. Due to their limited vision however they need to remain in the safety of a covered pen to protect them and their ladies from predation. I only allow my polish flocks out when I am in the backyard with them either working in the gardens or just chilling with my peeps. This aside, the Polish gents make great roosters for a keeper who does not mind their antics. They are very easy to pick up and hold and due to their limited vision. They are a bit high strung only because they cannot see well which is part of what makes the Polish such and entertaining breed to own. They easily get themselves into trouble and then cannot see well enough to get themselves out of it. Keeping this breed requires some planning on the keepers part. Because they are very curious they need a variety of entertainment sources while they are confined to their pens. Simple things like mealworms to scratch around for in the shaving or a bottle filled with scratch with small holes that they have to extract the scratch from. I  place parrot toys in their pens to give them something to play with. They will happily peck and play with the hanging toys all the while being spooked by it at the same time. They really are an endless form of entertainment in the backyard. The ladies will often perch on their keepers legs or arms making great lap chickens.

Silkie:

 

The second most numerous flock I have on my farm are the Silkies. Silkies are known as the “Teddy Bears” of the chicken world. Due to their feathers that are “fur-like” they are the cuddle bunnies of the flock. Silkies as a breed are known world over for being very docile, friendly, and calm. They are voted time and time again as the best breed to have for kids who want a coop of chickens to care for. I currently have a flock of 14 Silkies, 6 are roosters. Two roosters are in the coop with the ladies, the rest are in a bachelor pen I have set up for my access Silkie studs. My Silkie gents are very will behaved. They are not aggressive and will actually run from me when I try to pick them up. They are very shy and timid. The ladies are very friendly and enjoy interactions with their care takers. I have no trouble with my Silkie roosters at all. Like the Polish, its best to keep Silkies in the protection of a covered coop and pen unless you are outside with them. Due to their overwhelmingly shy and timid nature they would rather run from a predator than protect the ladies like most roosters do. When I can get ahold of the guys they are very docile and calm in my hands as I hold them. They would rather hide under a rock but are very easy going if I need to handle them.

Easter Eggers:

The final two guys I am going to introduce you too are Dracula and Frankenstein. These two guys are Easter Eggers and although not known as an exceptionally docile breed, these two boys are well behaved. I typically buy my chicks from hatcheries, however, last year I bought 6 chicks from my local feed store. 4 of the chicks I purchased were girls the other two are boys; Dracula and Frankenstein. The girls are in the Kuntry Klucker pen with Enigma, so these two studs are in a bachelor pen. They cohabitate very well and are very happy living up the single life in their bachelor digs.

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While there are many more breeds available, the breeds listed I have first hand experience with and can vouch for their temperament and disposition. Most roosters with the exception of the Polish and Silkie in my experience have a job to do and take it seriously. That aside, roosters are readily able to tell that their keeper is an ally and not an enemy. Providing food and treats for the girls only further establishes the keepers role as a friend and helper and not an enemy.

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Like any other subject there are always outliers, members that deviate from the norm. Roosters are no different, they are very much individuals, however as a whole the temperament of the breed does play a major part in the behavior of the gents. I have 20 or so roosters, the majority residing in bachelor pens. I do not have a problem with any one of my boys. Even the guys that are in the bachelor digs are very well behaved and display a temperament true of their breed. The two Easter Egger roosters that I have Dracula and Frankenstein are even very well mannered even though as a whole their breed does not agree. Thus, it is even possible to have a breed that is not renowned for being docile and calm and still end up with very friendly roosters.

I hope that this post has been helpful for those thinking about acquiring roosters for or with their spring chickens. It is very possible to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to keeping roosters. Selecting gents from breeds that are well known for being calm and docile is an excellent place to start. If you have any questions please feel to leave a comment, I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks for reading, till next time keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

 

 

 

 

 

Bachelor Pens for Roosters

When faced with a surplus of roosters many people panic because they don’t know what to do. They know of several options from days of old such things as freezer camp (butchering surplus roosters), giving them away, or just hoping for the best with so many boys around. Might I suggest another approach. A bachelor pen. I currently have two bachelor pens for my boys. One for the Standard size and another for the Bantam size boys. I could probably keep them together in one large pen, but I feel better separating them into two pens.

Bachelor pen 1

A rooster is a selfless creature, often sacrificing himself to save the lives of your girls. A fearless warrior with a heart of gold. Majestic and beautiful, a natural born singer who writes his own songs. A dancer, who loves to waltz for those he cares about. A true gentlemen. And sadly the most abused, unwanted, and forgotten of all the creatures.

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I love roosters, I value their role in a backyard flock as protectors and caretakers of my hens. I have found myself in the past not having enough roosters and needing them desperately.

 

 

 

 

 

When I first started out with chicken keeping I was terrified of roosters. I did not want one at any cost. I prayed and hoped that my batch of chicks were all girls like I had ordered. Well as fate would have it, I had three roosters, I panicked! What was I going to do with all these roosters? I could maybe stomach keeping just one, but the rest had to go. After some time of hard work, I found homes for the other two and just kept one. His name was Roy, through him I learned how wonderful roosters really are. Roy taught me so much. I owe him a debt of graditude, he was a gentleman with feathers. I was shocked at how tame he was, I realized how wrong I had been for being so afraid of him.

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To my detriment Roy passed after several years due to illness. I was without a rooster for 5 years. Till finally throughout the years my girls passed away and I needed more chickens. This time I was excited as my chicks got older some began to crow. I finally had roosters!! Now I have about 15 roosters, a little more than what I was hoping for but a surplus at least.

So now the question comes up, what am I going to do with all these glorious boys? Well, instead of freaking out and trying to unload as many as I can, I am going to keep them ALL. I cannot keep all of them with my girls, that would be an unhealthy situation for my hens. Instead I am going to prepare for them their own digs, a bachelor pen.

Roosters, when raised up in the same flock are more corgial than most people might think. If raised together from chickhood they can and do cohabitant together very well. Roosters fight when they have something that they need to defend. Without access to hens, there is nothing to defend. This is how a bachelor pen works.

So, all of my surplus roosters will find their forever home here on my farm in their own special digs. Separate from the hens, they will live in a bachelor pen. They will have a large outdoor pen for which to roam and hunt for bugs when the weather is good. But they will have no access to the hens, squandering any need to fight or claim territory over one another. I will choose a few that will run with the girls and protect my flock while they are free ranging. As for the rest, instead of freezer camp they will live peacefully in the bachelor pen that I have prepared for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I find a lot of value in roosters and will not re-home any of them. If for some reason one of the roosters heading up a flock becomes ill or even worse passes away, I will have others to take his place. A situation I did not have years ago when I needed it so desperately.

So for those that are panicking because you have more roosters than you counted on, don’t freak out. Prepare a bachelor pen for them to live in. You don’t need to go to all the work of trying to franticly find a home or someone else that will take him off your hands. Keep your boys, just put them in a separate coop and pen and enjoy the songs they sing for you.

Roosters really are wonderful creatures and deserve much better than what they are often dealt. You don’t have to get rid of your boys, the time may come when you will need one. Whether for protection from predators or the need to procreate your flock.

I hope that this post was helpful in sorting out a common rooster issues.

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions feel free to post in the comments and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

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