So, just casually, we have a rooster. A ROOSTER. I was planning to get a rooster some day. I had even gone so far as to decide that it would be a barred Plymouth Rock or a black Orpington, raised from fertilised eggs I would buy. I would pick the best cockerel to keep, making sure it was nice and not too noisy. Last week friends of ours over at The Urban Good Life advertised their rooster on Facebook. They raised him from a bunch of fertilised eggs, of which he wasn’t even one of the two breeds they were supposed to be. The wee black chick stole their hearts and continued to do so as he grew. The other roosters got eaten, but not the precious Czahny Bird. They couldn’t keep him anymore because they live in the city and crowing doesn’t sit well with city neighbours. They were very attached to him so wanted to find him a good, non-pot home. I looked at the photos of this rooster. He was black, with the typical beetle-green sheen of Australorps and Orpingtons. “Ooooh,” I thought to myself. He looked like an Australorp to me. That meant any purebred babies I would get would come from nutty Frodo, my blue Australorp. That wasn’t my original plan. But he was beautiful! Frodo is too, mind. And she lays good eggs when she’s actually laying. She just goes broody all the time. Maybe she just needs to have babies…
I had to act quickly. I wanted him. I had to stake my claim before anyone else did. I just wanted to make sure he had a nice nature. Yes, I was assured, he did. A few days later, our friends turned up with the rooster. I was excited and nervous. Nervous about the noise he would make; I’ve never had a rooster so I didn’t know what I was in for and I was worried about what the close neighbours along one side of our property would think; but more nervous that I might kill him. After all, I had just had one of my chickens die the day before. It was still raw in my mind. And she was the second one I’ve lost in the last two months. Sure, I was on holiday when I lost my first one, but still. I felt like a bad chicken mum. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to keep chickens. What if they all died? What if this beloved rooster died under my watch? Should I be trusted with him? And yet, here he was.
Photos don’t do him justice. He is about 6 months old I think but he is big. And black. And shiny. And his comb and wattles are so red. He is the picture of health and vitality. He is just beautiful! And it turns out, he came from the same breeder I got all my chickens from, so I know he’s a quality purebred. I decided I had to quarantine him from the ladies. We put him into the big cage under the carport for the night and determined to set up a pen for him in the morning. We were told he crows at 5:30am in the morning. He started crowing at a generous 6:09am. I get up at 6:30am anyway so that I have time for breakfast and coffee before I get The Little Fulla up at around 7am. I don’t function well without breakfast. Or coffee. The rooster’s crowing wasn’t that loud from our room. The Husband didn’t even stir, as usual. I was worried about what the close neighbours would think though.
He crowed quite a bit on his first day. We set up a pen for him to roam around in, but it was new, he was alone and he could hear some lovely ladies somewhere nearby. Later in the afternoon when I checked on the chickens, Frodo and Legolas, who were being quite pal-ey all of a sudden, were next to his pen, staring into his eyes. In my rush to get inside to The Little Fulla I had left their pallet ‘gate’ ajar and they had snuck out to find him. That is the first time I’ve done that. I’m normally very thorough. Oh dear. Quarantine fail. Now he had seen and no doubt touched them. Apparently that did something to him. He no longer accepted his confinement. The second quarantine fail came when he fully jumped up on top of one of the wooden gate sides to his pen. Then he jumped back into the pen. Then he jumped up on the other side. Oh, goodness. Well, he is rather big after all. I’m not accustomed to the agility of a large rooster. It was early evening. The hens had already started their routine migration, gathering behind the garage en route to their run. What were we going to do? I asked The Husband but he didn’t know. We were supposed to be quarantining Mr Rooster but he had already broken the quarantine and we wouldn’t be able to confine him anywhere outside of the big cage with agility like that. He wouldn’t be happy in a cage, by himself, for two weeks.
“Argh, let’s just let him in with the others,” I said. I was treating their water for coccidiosis anyway and would otherwise have wanted to somehow treat him once he was exposed to the run so they might as well all get treated together. I could worm them all the next day too and had just done a full coop clean, complete with diatomaceous earth sprinkled on the bedding and coop, so that was in my favour. Also, evening was the best time for an (official) introduction.
It is a different dynamic introducing a rooster. All the ladies responded somewhat differently. Legolas was the funniest. When he walked in she looked at him in awe. She looked so smitten, like the emoticon with the little heart eyes. Dear wee Legolas. Being the baby of the bunch, who had just lost her buddy, she was probably stoked to have a new and distinguished buddy. Sam pretty much ignored him and wouldn’t let him get too close. She’s moulting so it’s probably a bit like a woman with PMS. She looks terrible since her neck, head and tail feathers started coming out in chunks, but I won’t tell her that. And Frodo? Frodo, his Australorp counterpart, was scared of him. Ah, you gotta laugh at Frodo.
On the second morning, crow o’clock was 6:15am. After that, I didn’t hear him crow all day, although we were out at church for a bit. He was obviously more settled having company. That night, it was 10pm and I had just gone to bed, reading my NZ Gardener magazine for a little bit to try and unwind so I would go to sleep nicely instead of driving myself crazy thinking about all the chicken business. Mr Rooster started crowing. Oh, crap. I leaped out of bed, threw on my dressing gown and went down to the chicken run to see what he was up to. The Husband followed suit, with his phone our only light, and on top of the coop roof sat Mr Rooster, shining in the dim light. I grabbed him but he got a fright, squawked loudly and flapped and I got a fright and let go. After a lap of the run he stood half under the coop and I grabbed him again. He squawked loudly and flapped like a maniac but I held on. You will not be a disturber of the peace, Mr Rooster! I put him inside the coop and shut the ramp. He scrambled to get out but soon calmed down. After things had been quiet for a matter of minutes I very quietly put the ramp back down, as I didn’t think he’d be impressed about being shut in there early the next morning. Maybe he was disturbed by the slightly noisy neighbours further down. Or maybe it was the neighbour’s cat, who often comes through the fence by the chicken run. Or maybe he’s just a little nutty too. He and Frodo should make a good pair.
On the third morning, crow o’clock was 6:45am and on the fourth it was a few minutes later. I don’t know if he’s still figuring out what time he wants to settle on or if he likes to mix it up but this time is fine by me. I have been checking on the chickens over and over again to make sure they’re all ok. You’ll forgive me if I’m a little paranoid. I gave myself insomnia for a few nights, lying awake thinking about chicken illnesses and how I might be disturbing the neighbours and hoping I wasn’t going to suddenly find another dead chicken. Coccidiosis treatment: Check. DE for insect pests: Check. Worm treatment: Check. Variety of treats to keep them healthy: Check. Checking on the chickens multiple times a day: Check, check, check… I’m starting to chill out a bit more now. We have survived the long weekend without any neighbour complaints and Mr Rooster had selected a spot on the roost in the coop when I checked yesterday evening. Good boy. This evening he was back on the coop roof again. But not for long… We need to put some better roosts into the coop so he likes it better in there. There’s only one at the moment and it’s not really wide enough.
And so, we have a rooster. He is currently known as Mr Rooster, until such a time as I feel like his trial period is over, no-one is going to make me give him up, he remains happy and he becomes a part of The Fellowship of the Egg. I discovered that you can get a thing called a crow control collar, which is like a velcro strap that goes around their neck, sitting under the hackle feathers, and supposedly making their crows quieter. It’s cheap, humane and recommended by City Councils, so I ordered one to try out, for the sake of being a considerate neighbour. Frodo isn’t scared of Mr Rooster anymore. In fact, they were very buddy buddy today and I’m hoping she starts laying again before it gets any colder so they can make pretty babies. We need another hen or two. It just doesn’t pay to have the minimum. But first, I have a lot of reading to do about raising chicks. Just not in the middle of the night…