It’s been a rough week to be a rooster on our homestead, whether chicken or quail.
Our quail rooster hit puberty a few weeks ago, which was entertaining at first. His attempted crowing sounded like moist flatulence for about a week until it matured into a beautiful trilling quail crow. However, the adolescent games of “tag” quickly turned into something darker.
In nature, mating is rather indelicate and often rough. Still our quail rooster turned into a little domestic abuser, despite the 1:4 rooster-to-hen ratio in our starter flock. When I found a couple of our hens bloody and one seemingly missing an eye, the rooster went straight into solitary confinement.
I reasoned that perhaps in his near virginal state he might not be mating successfully, or the hens might not yet be receptive. For the next few weeks, he lived by himself save for brief conjugal visits, since were hoping to incubate our own quail eggs from this original flock.
After two weeks though, the largest hen began to defend her and her fellows’ virtue. Instead of breeding, the rooster spent his visits racing around the pen, alpha hen in pursuit. Quail are territorial, so this wasn’t an unexpected turn. Still we wanted fertile eggs, and the rooster had stopped crowing, a sign of defeat which could also portend future impotence if the situation continued.
So I opted to remove the alpha hen, leave the rooster in her place, and monitor the situation carefully. The next morning, all was well, but on my third check-in, I saw that the rooster had drawn significant blood on the same most unfortunate hen.
Apparently, it’s especially important to cull aggression in quail, which made me reticent to build our future flock with half of psycho rooster’s genetics. Ultimately, I opted to buy thirty eggs from a different supplier to incubate while leaving our hens to their own devices for the near future.
This left me with one useless rooster, and he died a very quick death. Sorry, folks. Nature is brutal. Don’t worry, his meat is in the refrigerator and his offal and feathers went straight to the chickens, who found his head to be a particularly desirable prize for a half hour game of keep away.
That brings us to rooster number two. We currently have a flock of fourteen chickens with plans to add about twenty chickens this summer and cull or give away the older birds before winter. Still, I’m frugal, so the thought of hatching our own eggs and saving the cost of buying chicks was alluring, even if we just kept the rooster for a few months. We live on the edge of the city, literally just outside the city line, so we’re not limited by city ordinances.
So I located a free leghorn rooster on Craigslist, and took my eldest child with me to retrieve our charity case. There were a few warning signs. This was a reject rooster, and the wife in this family commented on the quietness of the rooster they were retaining. They also had far too many drakes in their duck flock, which is practically murderous for hens and draws into question the owner’s level of forethought or empathy, for animals or for other. Still, free is free.
We brought the rooster home and introduced him to his new harem. He began to strut around, assuming the ladies would fawn over him. However, the alpha chicken hen, a yearling Rhode Island Red who successfully pulled a coup d’état among the older hens took umbrage. While she ultimately retreated from her skirmish with the rooster, she reengaged at several points before ultimately seceding.
The rooster, however, was affronted, perhaps more because the scuffles left his pristine white feathers coated in muck. Still come nightfall, he took the preeminent spot in the roost with all the sagacity of a maligned monarch.
I should have taken this moment to read a valuable scripture to the rooster, “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse” (Proverbs 27:14). However, this thought didn’t cross my mind until later.
Now I was prepared for a rooster to crow in the morning, but within reason. We hatched two cockerels last year, and in the summer they began crowing at five or five thirty, at the earliest. However, this degenerate rooster began crowing at four a.m. in the midst of winter, a good three hours before sunrise, and not the occasional solitary crow but a string of them. He crowed again at 4:30, 5:00, and 5:15 with all the truculent gusto of a presidential candidate.
By the time he started up at 5:30, I was past my limit, the pregnant wife and baby having both been woken. I donned my coat, grabbed my filleting knife, and marched outside, where I set up my kill cone, opened the coop door, grabbed the started reprobate, deposited him upside down in the cone, and dispatched him (all without getting spurred I might add). The blood drained onto the snow spotted ground, and I disposed of the body.
Lesson learned. We’ll stick to hens and buy pullets.