A Suburban Chicken Tale

IMG_3566

It’s been almost four years since I first got chickens. I’ve learned much since then, many lessons that only come with experience. Just like with most anything in life, there’s ups and downs – which I found out first hand!

I wanted chickens forever, so when I got them, I was overjoyed. I’ll never forget that first egg and the excitement when we found it in the nest. My first chickens were a flock of four; given to me by a neighbor in November 2013. I didn’t want a rooster, but seeing as I am often like the grown-up, female version of Charlie Brown…I got a rock rooster. One of my little pullets suddenly started crowing one day, much to my startled surprise.

IMG_3532

Spot was my rooster. The first time I heard him crow, I jumped, as they were still inside, little mini-chickens- pullets still growing, waiting to go outside into the big world. I was in the hallway of my basement when I heard this strange high pitched noise coming from the garage. Spot was trying his best to puff his chest and crow, his young voice breaking like a teenage boy.

He didn’t stay tiny for long, and eventually Spot the Rooster (named for the little spot on his tail as a chick, which became a black feather) grew as large as a huge tom turkey, with spurs to match.

IMG_0086

For a long while, all was good. Blissful, even. My blogs the past few years are filled with happy memories and beautiful photographs of my little flock. My hens grew into large, fluffy chickens, laying delicious eggs everyday. When you have a small flock, you notice individual personalities among your chickens. For instance, “Peep” was my daredevil chicken, forever on the highest perch. “Nugget” was my snuggler, always wanting to be held.

This is my favorite photo of my first flock.

This is my favorite photo of my first flock. Check out his spurs!

Spot, the rooster, grew GIANT and beautiful. He had cream and white feathers, peppered with little black spots and a large plume of white tail feathers with one black one that shined purple in the sun. He became very protective of his girls, even doing a special crow- a distress call, whenever a sneaky fox or hungry hawk entered the yard. He knew I’d come out and chase off any potential predators. It was a balanced, happy flock.

IMG_2922

Then things gradually began to change. I could no longer go near the flock without the rooster charging (he’d puff up, looking like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park)! We couldn’t let the flock out of the run to graze, for fear the rooster would come at us or the dogs. He was so beautiful, and was “just doing a rooster’s job of protecting the hens”, I’d reason. Adding more hens didn’t alleviate the problem, as some advised to do for a “bored” rooster. He’d abuse them all. Unfortunately, we humans were no longer the “alphas”, the rooster was. His knife-like spurs became very long, sharp talons, that could do serious damage. We couldn’t let anyone watch our flock to go on vacation, because we couldn’t risk Spot’s aggression. He’d let me hand feed him through the fence, but woe to me if I tried to go in.

IMG_2888

This spring, we got the chickens a new, big Amish coop and made the run bigger. They were happy at first, with exception of the rooster. Eventually, he no longer alerted me of predators, and began “flogging” the girls whenever we were outside. My flock was healthy, with no disease or issues, yet my girls were getting torn up mercilessly by the rooster. It escalated, to the point that he’d dart out of the dark coop to attack when we’d go to close the coop at night. I was going to end up with no hens and just one, mean but beautiful rooster. My hens were stressed, and so was I. I couldn’t get eggs from the egg box without him trying to charge through the coop to peck my eyes out. The last straw was when he killed a hen right before our eyes. He was picking off the girls, one by one! We were done, he had to go. Still, my heart was breaking – I’d raised him from a three-day old hatchling.

Many told me to put Spot in the stew pot. Now for you “real farmers”, I know farm animals are not necessarily pets. My father fussed at me for naming my chickens, and for not culling the flock and getting new chickens each spring. First off, I’m a farmgirl, in the suburbs, and not a farmer on a farm. While I clean the coop, check for disease, and fuss over my girls, I’m not raising meat chickens. It’s not the 1920’s. I don’t have to butcher chickens if I don’t want to. My girls are welcome to live out their beyond-egg-laying days in peace. (I still eat chicken, just not my chickens).

In the end, we spoke with a farmer who owns a local feed store, where they take in roosters. Spot might be able to live his days out on the farmer’s large, open farm, with farmhands who are better equipped to handle a rooster of his size and disposition. If he gets culled, I never have to know.

It took both my husband and I to get him out of the coop and into the travel cage. My husband was wide eyed when I grabbed Spot and settled him in the cage. Hey, I am a farmgirl! The two hens left immediately looked relieved.

We dropped the rooster off, and purchased six new, healthy and strong pullets.

We picked up three Leghorns and three Rhode Island cross hens.

We picked up three Leghorns and three Rhode Island cross hens.

I did have tears as we pulled away. I loved Spot’s crowing, and the noises he made when he wasn’t being aggressive. I miss hearing my neighbor’s rooster crowing back and forth with mine, like a conversation. I miss the days when he and the girls would all lay in the sun in a pile, sharing a dirt bath. As my best friend said, “You miss what might have been.” He got mean, and there was just no changing him. My aunt had a pet bantam rooster she loved. He got older, and did the same thing to her bantam hens. Some roosters are nice, others get mean with age, no matter what you do.

It’s the mistake you always made, Doc, trying to love a wild thing…You mustn’t give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get…” -Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s                                                                                
The new hens are 21 weeks old – three Leghorns and three Rhode Island Red crosses. In the car on the way home, they all huddled together, sweet little clucking coming from the back. The feed store agreed that we’d probably have no issues adding the two girls we had left with the six new ones , since our two were so timid. They were right. We didn’t have to do what we did the year before, keeping them separate. It was like they were a flock all along. They even all settled in together the first night in the coop, cuddling up,”new” and “old” together.

The girls went into the coop together no problem from the very first night.

The girls went into the coop together no problem from the very first night.

The flock is happy. We have balance again. The poor little hen that was last hurt by the rooster is better. I treated her abrasions, and the others don’t peck at her. We’re able to go in the coop, enjoy our hens again, spoiling the flock rotten! They are bringing us joy again.

IMG_0088

 

IMG_0089

A leghorn, an Araucana, and a Rhode Island Red Cross egg.

A Leghorn, an Araucana, and a Rhode Island Red Cross egg.

IMG_0087

I love rooster decor, like the little luster ware, ceramic vintage one I found recently at an antique store. I’ll never have a real rooster again!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole 

Leave a comment 22 Comments

  1. Dirtduchesd says:

    Loved your story. I had chickens for years. Between raccoons, hawks and coyotes they managed to get them all. My daughter-in-law lives down the hill. She has lots of chickens and two roosters that get along. I can hear the roosters crowing in the morning and I get free eggs. Couldn’t get better than that.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi! Yes, we, too, have to watch the raccoons, hawks, fisher cats, and other wild life. We don’t leave the girls to “free range” unless we are outside with them, and we bring my daughter’s pet bunny in at night. I do miss his crowing. Enjoy those eggs! Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Binky Thorsson says:

    Dear Nicole, very happy you shared your story. We had a rooster that our grandson hatched out of an incubator, on his birthday when he was in the second grade. He named him snowball, because he was white, but as he got older he had some golden feathers. He died of old age.
    I decided the hens needed a rooster to help protect them. There was a freebie rooster that came up because these people had gotten a few chicks, and when they were big enough to realize one was a roo they didn’t want to keep it. So I contacted them and went to check out what they needed a home for. He was the most stunning , gorgeous barred rock rooster. I told them I’d take him off their hands. They were thrilled he wouldn’t be eaten.
    He was so rough on my hens…they suffered for a month as I gave him time to settle in. I just couldn’t watch anymore, he needed to go. (Beauty isn’t everything!) Now it’s been 6 months no rooster. They are just fine.
    Enjoy these wonderful birds! Binky, of Petaluma

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Binky, Thank YOU for sharing your story. Spot was the hatchling my daughter had picked out as well, and it broke her heart when he became a rooster. He scared her early on. My girls are so much better off now, and happy. I love that you did have a rooster, Snowball, who died of old age. I wonder if some breeds are more aggressive and others less so? There is a “living museum” in Massachusetts that has the sweetest, most docile rooster. He is much, much smaller than my roo was. I saw another kind of thing when I visited Texas this spring; again it was a different breed. Thanks again for commenting. Enjoy your girls, too! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Sandi King says:

    Nicole, so sorry you had to get rid of your rooster and that he had turned so mean. I wonder why they do? I don’t have nor will I ever have a rooster in my hen house. No Men Allowed! My hens love me as if I was their ‘rooster’ as they gather close around my feet when I go in the pen. They cluck and coo and talk back and forth. I love my hens. Some don’t lay eggs any more – too old probably as I have had them for over a year and they were over a year old when I got them. Golden Comets and they are so calm and gentle hens. This fall I hope to get some new younger ones that will lay more eggs as I have neighbors who rely on me for fresh brown eggs. Your hens look wonderful. I hope you have a better year now that you have some new ones and no ‘rooster’. I have never witnessed a rooster that does what your rooster did and hope never to see it. When my son was small a rooster attacked him and I have never trusted roosters since then. Maybe it is because they train them for fighting and that ‘gene’ is passed down? Who knows? Happy days ahead for your ladies.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Sandi, My girls today did exactly what you spoke about…they all gathered around me and just warmed my heart! One even popped into the coop when I was cleaning it as if to say, “Hi Mama”. I just love them. I wish I had gotten rid of Spot earlier, before I lost my sweet girls. They did not deserve that fate. My rooster was always treated well – but he spooked me and got control. I did not realize just how much stress he was causing me physically until he’s been gone. Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Sandi King says:

    P.S. I have a rooster statue I keep in the chicken pen.

  5. Linda says:

    Hi Nicole. I’ve had mean roosters and there’s just no changing their nature! They become dangerous and have to be destroyed, sadly. I’m now in an apartment (senior) but I hope to be able to have chickens again some day. I miss my “girls” as my grandmother would call them. There’s just something peaceful about the sounds they make!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Linda, thank you. I’m glad it wasn’t “me”. My “girls” are so happy, and peaceful, and they are making clucks and purrs. They are just so darn sweet. I hope you get to have chickens again, too. Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Vivian Monroe says:

    Nicole, I feel your pain. I just went through the same thing. I had 8 chickens, 7 hens and 1 turned out to be a rooster, he was a Dominique, and he was beautiful, like yours grew up to be huge with huge spurs. All of a sudden he started charging me, and it got to where I couldnt go in the run and when I would open the gate to let them out to free range (about an acre fenced off, just for them) He would try to attack me while I was fixing the gate to stay shut. ughh…I too did not want to kill him as everyone kept suggesting, but I also caught him mistreating my hens as well, and twice a hawk got a hen while he was out there with them, (so he wasnt doing his job). Finally a friend from church knew someone who had hundreds of chickens and would come get him and let him live his life out with them. (his wife would not let him kill her chickens either so they just lived there till they died. :). I was happy to find him a good home. That man just went right in that pen and captured him like it wasnt nothing…glad it was him and not me. :) I know your girls are peaceful and happy now.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Vivian, Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. That is exactly how it was with Spot. I don’t know for sure that Spot was kept or killed, but I guess I don’t want to know. I hope he is free ranging and being put in his place so he behaves better. I love my “little chickie girls” so much. I just feel so awful that I did not get rid of him before he got to my little chicken, Nugget. She used to love to climb up to get me to hold her, and she’d lay her head on my shoulder and sometimes fall asleep. I had no idea at that point that he was hurting them, though. Anyway, lessen learned. The flock now is happy and peaceful. Much love to you. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Joan says:

    Your story rings so true me and I’m very sorry you had the experience but, in my humble opinion, you did the best for all. Your new ones are lucky to have the older girls and y’all in there lives. Hope your change will lessen soon. God bless.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, You’re right. I would’ve never forgiven myself had the rooster hurt my husband or someone else, and it used to peck at my dog’g when they would go near the coop. It’s just one of those things, I guess. It’s all good now. I am thankful for the farmer/feed store that will take in the roosters. Otherwise, it could have been even more difficult. Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Marilyn says:

    Sorry you had to get rid of your rooster. At least the hens are at peace now and do not have to worry.
    Marilyn

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marilyn, You are so right! Now I notice even my two timid hens are friendly and no longer timid. They are less stressed, and so am I. It was the right thing to do. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  9. Krista says:

    Nicole, that’s a bummer about your rooster. I’m sorry to hear he turned mean and needed to find a new home. It’s always hard to see animals go. I agree with you on them still being pets. My husband grew up on a farm so he doesn’t understand. He probably would have just cooked him. There is no way I could have. One day I hope to have chickens and I don’t plan on having a rooster. It will be so much fun for my boys to experience. I hope all your chickens, new and old, are doing good.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Krista, thank you. It was hard for me to let him go, but in the long run, it’s better for the girls and me. This morning, they were all huddled around me. Now they run up to see me whenever I approach, as opposed to huddling away from the rooster. It was hard since in the beginning he was good with the girls. If I had small children, he would have been especially dangerous! Hens are so docile and sweet – your boys will love them! Have fun! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  10. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Pictures are so cute and happy your chickens are happy now. Coop is very nice. Love you,
    Mother

  11. Deb Bosworth says:

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that with your flock, Nicole. It’s traumatic for the flock and the flock keepers too! We experienced exactly the same thing with our flock several years ago. We accidentally ended up with two roo’s in a batch of new chicks ( our second flock I believe) and decided to gamble on keeping them to see what would happen. All was well in the beginning until one of the roosters became the alpha an wouldn’t leave the poor hens alone. He even quarantined two off in the coop an wouldn’t let them out at all in the run and when I went in the run he was aggressive. The hens were stressed and so were we. I thought I was a tougher farmgirl than I really am and had both of the roosters butchered thinking we would eat them. I lacked the guts to ever cook them. They sat in my freeze for a year and I finally disposed of them in the trash.

    I’m happy to know that the new little flock is happy with the older girls and peace has been restored in your hen house!
    A hard life-lesson for sure. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Blessings!
    Deb

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Deb! Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. It makes me feel better knowing I did everything I could and that there was nothing that could keep the roo from being the way he was. I couldn’t have cooked those roosters (or mine) either!

      Now it’s been a few weeks and the girls are so happy! They all come running when they see me to see what “treats” I have in store for them. My only regret is not listening to those who told me earlier on to get rid of the rooster. I miss my little hen, Nugget! Lesson learned. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>