Monday, May 19, 2014

Good Riddance

We finally took care of a problem we have been having with the chickens. Much overdue.

We were down to eight chickens: two roosters with six laying hens. Several months ago we lost two laying hens to separate attacks by a hawk. I have since arranged the fencing into narrow runs to hopefully discourage and confuse the hawks.

According to my chicken book, "If you want to be sure all the eggs are fertile, one cock can service from eight to twelve hens." Since we had double the males with half the females, according to that ratio, the poor girls were being severely over-serviced. It gradually developed into a more serious problem with severe loss of feathers on the neck and back and gashes on the sides of the girls. In the words of my book, they were showing signs of poor management and severe stress. Shame on me.

It would have been manageable if the boys had chosen out a couple of girls to be their chosen ones, and left the others alone. But it was as if the boys were trying to prove to each other how many girls they could service each day, sometimes multiple times by each other. Those poor girls. The last straw was one evening when I witnessed a tag team event.

In addition, the two boys were constantly competing with each other. They would have crowing competitions in the middle of the night! Crowing all through the day. So much crowing. Fighting all the time. So much noise.

We were past caring what happened to the extra rooster. I became more concerned about the health of my laying hens and the daily egg count.  At first we thought we would butcher and eat it, but we couldn't seem to muster up the courage to do it. Some evenings I was tempted to just lock one out of the coop and let it fend for itself with the night creatures. 

I had decided we should keep the dominant Rooster A, despite my urge to root for the underdog.  It was easy to identify him since he had the bigger feathers and less battle wounds. So then we waited for the right moment.

One of our neighbors stopped by the other morning to talk about our mutual fence line where his cows get through into our pasture. He also keeps chickens, so we mentioned the trouble we were having with our two roosters and he offered to help. He thought one of his friends would want it. I managed to isolate Rooster B inside the coop and was able to catch him without injury (to me, not him). Neighbor tied him up on his four-wheeler and took him away, no more questions asked.

Good riddance was all I could say.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how calm and quiet the chickens all are now. No more fighting. No more fussing. Little crowing. Much less servicing going on. I am hopeful that the girls' feathers will all grow back. So much for choosing a breed with pretty feathers. 

I'm embarrassed to show you the pictures.

Our neighbor tied Rooster B onto the back of his four-wheeler.

The hens lost feathers in two basic areas: around the neck and on the back.

This is the hen with the gash on her back.

She is also the hen with the rawest neck.

Most feather loss was on their backs.

All the hens have suffered to some extent.

Damage to the back

More neck and back damage

Hopefully Rooster A will rediscover the art of the mating ritual.

The fencing is arranged in a narrow run to discourage hawks.

Everyone is much happier now.

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