Posted in Animal on October 13, 2013
I did not want a rooster. And really, I still don’t. When I first looked at the house almost two years ago, the property had a resident rooster. He attacked my real estate agent, taking a chunk out of his khakis (but fortunately not his leg). On subsequent visits to the place, I brought a poultry hook so that I could prevent further incidents. When the sale closed, Mr. Rooster Man (his real name) moved next door along with the two horses who’d been boarded here, all of them belonging to a person who took an near-instant dislike for me, for reasons best not explained. (Other people were largely responsible, and it wasn’t anyone’s finest moment, mine included.’Nuff said.)
When I lived in plain ol’ suburbia, I had chickens. Where I lived, hens were allowed if you had a single-family residence on a minimum lot of a quarter-acre, which I did. I maintained a flock of about 10 chickens for four or five years before moving to this house, where “AG-RES” zoning made roosters (goats, sheep, cattle, horses) allowable.
Twice before I’d raised “female” chicks who turned out to be roosters. One died in the jaws of my chicken-killing retriever, the late McKenzie, and the other one I rehomed to my friend’s farm. But the fact is that it didn’t matter what I thought about having a rooster where I used to live, because they were not allowed by zoning, period. My neighbor, who’d taken up chickens about the same time I did, was not as fortunate. She seemed to get about 30 percent males out of chicks purported to be “95 percent” sexed as females. She rehomed hers as well, but it wasn’t easy: The feed store where she’d bought her chicks suggested turning them loose in a nearby town, or dropping them on the American River Parkway for the coyotes to eat. Or, quite sensibly, killing them for food. She did none of that, but her roosters-to-hens ratio was so bad that she stopped raising chicks. Last I heard, she was just letting her hens live out their roosterless lives.
The first spring I was here I was too busy to raise chicks. Last spring was the first chance I had, and I went a little overboard at the feed store. By the time summer came around I had 22 chickens, or about a dozen more than I’d brought over from the old house. By July, it was apparent by the dawn serenade that one of those “shes” was a he. Wouldn’t you know it: It was the “just one more” chick I’d pulled from the Ameraucana tray at the feed store. The chick had caught my eye because of the markings, and yes, that chick grew up to be a striking rooster, now named Aloysius or just plain Big Al.
Good-looking he may be, but welcome he is not.
When Mr. Rooster Man moved next door, I didn’t miss him much. Mostly because it was as if he’d never left: He’d claimed a corner of his new yard that was right under the bedroom windows of my house. Although I got use to his racket, guests always complained. Some even offered, somewhat jokingly, to remove the foul fowl. Eventually, something got him, a raccoon, or maybe a coyote, and we all slept better for it. I expressed my condolences to those who loved him, but I myself did not regret his death a bit.
As for Big Al, he isn’t an attack rooster. His crowing isn’t all that bad, and he’s gorgeous. These all work in his favor, as does the fact that he’s not all that beastly towards the hens and seems to have a beneficial impact on the volume of egg production (which is about seven dozen a week, and yes, we eat a lot of eggs and give a lot away, too). In the spring, I’ll let some of the green and blue eggs hatch out for more Ameraucanas (love those green- and blue-shelled eggs), so he he’ll earn his keep a little. What happens when half of those chicks start crowing? I’m really not opposed to the Chicken Soup Solution. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. Big Al has the edge on survival, thanks to his status as Rooster No. 1.
For now, I’m allowing Al to keep his head. Emphasis on “for now.” If the crowing becomes annoying or he becomes dangerous, all the good looks in the world won’t save him.