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beautiful and tragic


Welp, it must be Spring — I’ve got the itch for more chickens. A chicken jones, as it were. Yes, I have been chicken shopping.

My flock is down to three, which is no kind of flock at all. But I have a bit of a dilemma — my henhouse will comfortably hold four, but you have to add them in pairs, at least (every hen needs a buddy — that whole ‘pecking order’ thing is deadly serious).

I was kind of hoping the henhouse would fall to bits this Winter. I emphatically am not hoping to lose my oldest bird, who is my favorite chikken EVAR, though that too would have solved the problem (they live six to eight years, and she’ll be seven next month; please send a happy thought Mapp’s way). I’m thinking maybe throw caution to the winds and buy a newer, bigger henhouse and add three new chikkens to the flock. If I can find the chikkens I’m looking for.

Him? That fine-looking specimen in the picture? I found him in the free ads. He’s what sucks the fun out of chikken shopping in the classifieds: people desperate to get rid of surplus roosters (“free to a good home, very friendly bird, pleeeeease!”).

I’m always tempted, but not really tempted. See, some sneaky bird from my flock would surely lay a few eggs in the hedge and, next thing you know, I’d be desperate to get rid of a surplus rooster. And it would be kind of startling to introduce my hens to sex at this time of life.

Also, bantam cockerels have a crow that could peel wallpaper.


Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: February 26, 2016, 12:00 am

Imagine my delight at NOT seeing a hairy- or girlie-male imaged here … again.

Hell, Stoaty, go ahead and let them breed for a while. If you get a spare rooster (or tired of the loudmouth bantam), simply drive it over to the next county and release it near another chicken-raiser household. You know – share the wealth. Then drive away really fast!

Roosters don’t have ID tags or anything, do they? Fingerprints?

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: February 26, 2016, 1:00 am

Chickens!!11!!!eleventy!!11 :+)

5 stars!!

Comment from homer
Time: February 26, 2016, 3:23 am

What’s tragic about chicken and biscuits? For the love of God – you grew up in Tennessee. Get with the program.

Comment from technochitlin
Time: February 26, 2016, 1:45 pm

Pan fried. With cornbread and collards. I’m just sayin’…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 26, 2016, 2:38 pm

I don’t know any songs about Chickens that I can quote… So ya’ll are safe….for a day.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 26, 2016, 4:06 pm

“bantam cockerels”

Band name sorted.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 26, 2016, 6:10 pm

My mama used to call them “banty roosters” — and she called little men that, too. Contemptuously (though she married one second time around).

Comment from BJM
Time: February 26, 2016, 6:21 pm

I’m on the fence re chikkens, to get them or not.

It would be just my luck to get a flock of divas or for them to all drop dead.

I reserved a space for a coop & run within my fenced veggie garden…so I must decide as Spring is progressing fast hereabouts; plant two more fruit trees or get chickens

I’d like the eggs, but I can buy fresh eggs from a lady just down the road. I also like the idea of more self-sufficiency too.

Stoaty, could you run the positive aspects by me.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 26, 2016, 8:20 pm

Well, BJM, I keep Pekin Bantams (often called Cochins in the States, I think). They are useless as meat chickens and only moderately useful as egg layers, though I much prefer their eggs (they’re quite small, but the yolks are the size of regular chicken eggs, so everything you make with them is deliciously yolky and vivid orange).

We love them because they’re beautiful and they have huge outsized personalities. We’ve had six birds (of six different colors) and each one has had a totally different temperament, different tastes, different voice. The flock itself has a sort of personality of its own that changes as birds are added or die.

Because they’re small and not too destructive, you can let them free range in the garden without too many plant casualties. That’s the best, because when you step outside, the whole flock runs up to you like puppies. Like, “OMG — IT’S YOU! THAT’S AWESOME!”

I could watch my chickens all day. But self-sufficiency? Not so much. You need to harden your heart to take on livestock as a practical matter.

Comment from HL King
Time: February 26, 2016, 8:27 pm

This Old House – How to Build a Chicken Coop for Six:

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 26, 2016, 8:41 pm

I’m not very handy, HL. Plus, these days I can get a flat-pack henhouse on eBay for probably cheaper than I can buy the materials. No kidding.

The same henhouse I bought from a chikken dealer six years ago is about half as expensive on eBay today. Yup, been chikkenhouse shopping, too.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 26, 2016, 11:29 pm

Can’t a rooster be “fixed”? You gave Mad Jack the snip, IIRC.

(There is an on-going program in Colombia to catch and castrate feral hippopotamuses. Their ancestors escaped from Pablo Escobar’s private zoo, and there are now 30 to 60 of them.)

Comment from mojo
Time: February 27, 2016, 3:51 am

Top Animal causes of death in Africa:
1) Hippos
2) Spectacled cobra
3) Nile crocodile

Comment from catnip
Time: February 27, 2016, 5:03 am

@Some Vegetable,

“Chickery Chick,” a silly, catchy song, was at the top of the charts in 1945. Sammy Kaye, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, and (later) Tiny Tim released recordings of it, all available for your listening pleasure on YouTube.

Comment from BJM
Time: February 27, 2016, 7:31 am

Thanks Stoaty, we have three English Springers so chickens wandering around the property isn’t a starter.

The veggie garden is 60 x 80 ft fenced with 7′ no-climb cattle panel wire to keep deer out, so they’d have sufficient scratching room. I’d get a coop with a run cuz foxes, hawks and owls abound…big fooking barn owls.

The self-sufficiency part would be eggs as I couldn’t harden my heart enough to kill them for meat, so eventually I’d be running a chikken senior home.

I went chicken shopping today. I love the Buff Orpingtons’ fluffy chicken butts. Orps are good layers and said to be calmer than most breeds. Any input re Orps?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 27, 2016, 9:53 am

My input re: buff orpingtons — I LOVE BUFF ORPINGTONS. They’re beautiful big floofy birds, though I gather they’re more feather than bird. I was actually on my way to buy buff orps when I was talked into bantams (because of the damage to Uncle B’s garden that orpingtons would do). Are you in the States? I thought orpingtons were strictly a local (British) thing (Orpington being a place nearby. One of my neighbors is an Orpington man).

Now the downside: I’ve heard (do please check to confirm) that orpingtons are brilliant layers for three years, but live for ten.

Comment from HL King
Time: February 27, 2016, 11:59 am

Huh. I assumed you’d be as handy as a shirt on a pocket! 😉

Comment from Armybrat
Time: February 28, 2016, 1:37 am

My older sister has a flock of hens and one effing rooster. She lives in way southern AZ ( like she can see Mexico from her kitchen window). Her chickens are a fancy breed with a feather crown…?polish? Her rooster is a big version of the hens in a stunning white and gray. He”s a loud bastard and my sister keeps hoping somebody will crawl across the border and be hungry enough to steal him in the middle of the night. Damn bird is 5 years old now and no takers so far.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 28, 2016, 11:23 am

Yeah, I felt that way about our rooster when I was a kid. He was a banty rooster, too. Little bastard would crow at 2am outside my bedroom window.

Possum got him, eventually. And then the rest of the flock.

Comment from BJM
Time: February 28, 2016, 6:49 pm

Stoaty, I’m in the California Central foothills, between Gold Country and the Valley.

>Now the downside: I’ve heard (do please check to confirm) that orpingtons are brilliant layers for three years, but live for ten.

They’re called Kent Orpingtons hereabouts…so figured you would be familiar with them. I’ll ask around.

Rhode Island Red Bantams, California White, Black Australorp, Buff Orpington and Wyandotte seem to be the most popular backyard breeds in my area.

Gran kept R.I. Reds but I think they are too aggressive. I want mellow chikkens.

The nearby family that sells eggs has Easter Eggers and Olive Eggers, (Easter Egger hens crossed with blue Wyandotte or black Australorp). I hadn’t even consider colored eggs.

I am beginning to see the appeal.

Comment from BJM
Time: February 28, 2016, 6:56 pm

@Armybrat – Don’t Polish chickens remind you of HRH Princess Eugenie’s fascinators?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 28, 2016, 7:40 pm

When I was a kid, our flock was Araucanas. Or so my mother said. Some variety of easter egg chickens, anyway.

Wyandottes are purty.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: March 10, 2016, 11:00 am

You can tell it’s spring around here when Craigslist is full of ads for free roos. People actually think somebody wants their problem for anything but Coq au Vin.

Of course, spare cockerels is a problem that’ll fix itself.

Rich, one can “fix” a rooster. It’s called caponising. It stops them from killing each other and keeps their meat from getting stringy.

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