Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chicken politics

The hens are on strike! We haven't had an egg in over a month. After they're a year old, most chickens molt and stop laying in the fall. I was under the impression that Easter Eggers laid all winter, but ours must have missed that memo.

This is the first year we haven't had spring chicks, so that's why it's a new problem. (Chicks born in the spring don't molt until their second fall.) My homesteading friends tell me that a light bulb in the coop will keep them laying, but for several reasons we don't want to do that.

So, no eggs for a while. We're hoarding the few we have remaining. (It's amazing how long real fresh eggs will last.)

After Stewpot disappeared, I wondered how the other roosters would behave. Both had been extremely submissive, and Stewpot had let them stay near the flock, as long as they didn't, umm, try stuff.

Big Red, the Rhode Island Red, decided he'd like to be the new boss. It worried me. He began acting aggressively, and though I had so far been able to bluff him into backing down, I feared we'd have to butcher him. An agressive rooster that large was NOT something I wanted to keep.

Then one afternoon we noticed Big Red wandering alone in the yard, past the time that the chickens normally put themselves to bed.

There had been a fight. He'd lost.

The dark spots on his comb are dried blood. I figured he was now blind in one eye too. Plus, there must have been injuries we couldn't see, since he sat in a dark corner of the coop and wouldn't eat or drink. I thought he might die.

But he improved. Now he's eating again -- he loved this treat of chicken scratch I brought him -- and even opens that eye now and then.

Meet the new boss. His name is Eagle.

Throwing out the previously liberal rooster-inclusion policies, Eagle has changed the rules. Big Red is not allowed to stay with the flock. I'm not sure how that is going to work out.

His comb's a little odd. I can't decide if it's a rose comb, pea comb, strawberry comb, or some combination.

But he'll eat out of my hand. He's a very sweet rooster. I just hope he stays that way.



Wow! Eagle is very handsome! We have not had egss for the better part of two months..Would love just one fresh egg.

Anonymous said...

Our easter egg hen quite laying as soon as the days really started to get short. We are still getting about 4 eggs a day thanks to our Black Australorps and a heat lamp in the coop. Of course they were spring chicks, but we still get an egg every couple of days from our 2 year old hen.

Roosters are funny creatures. We had one rooster get completely run off by the rest. He lived in the fields around us until something (coyote maybe?) got him.

Rachel said...

Ahhh, poor Big Red. I'm glad he's feeling better. I suppose being a rooster and not ruling the roost is a very bad shame in the chicken world. They are all very pretty!! Nothing like fresh eggs either.

happy and blue 2 said...

Being a rooster is a hard life, ha,ha..Maybe you could get Big Red some karate lessons or something..

meresy_g said...

So your rooster administration has gone from blue to red. Huh. Poor Red. Can he still go inside at night with them?

vicki said...

Great post- poor Big Red! This was interesting to me because my Australian grass finches were laying eggs constantly (I've been removing them because I just don't want any winter hatchlings this year) but they've stopped, too, in the past 10 days and the past few days the telltale signs of molting-feather down all over the floor under the aviary- have appeared.

Having chickens in the yard sounds good to me, especially from my view in the city.

One thing I DO have is sweetly scented soaps in rainbow colors- and with temps below zero in Chicago, a luxurious hot bath is just the thing. :-)

robin andrea said...

Eggs are the best part of keeping chickens; their behavior, not so much. It's one thing to kick the red rooster's butt and win, but entirely something else to banish him from the flock. Chickens need peaceful co-existence counseling.

karl said...

our chickens are a bunch of slackers right now also. i agree about the light thing--we aren't going to do it either.

i second the question about big red and if he gets to sleep with the rest?

we have had a strange dynamic with our chickens maybe it's also blog worthy. humm...

Floridacracker said...

Too weird.
We use that exact same tan pot to dip the chicken feed out of the feed container.

Insert twilight zone music here.

Cathy said...

I've always wanted to raise chickens, but doggone it - I didn't realize that the term 'pecking order' could have such dire consequences. Yep, I've always been a town or suburbun dweller I guess I've been a little sheltered regarding the nitty-gritty of country living. Guess the trick is not to bond to these critters. Is that possible?

Molly said...

My ladies haven't laid in nearly a month either. I didn't start any chicks this spring because I had a broody hen but she hatched out all males. I definitely see coq au vin on the menu after Christmas. I think a couple of last year's hens will start laying again as soon as the days begin to lengthen but the old girls seem to have hung it up.

Ontario Wanderer said...

We keep thinking about getting chickens and then not acting. Maybe next spring?

Allison (javachickn) said...

He has an (exaggerated) pea comb!

Eagle is very handsome. It's amazing how raptor-like some easter egger chickens look. I've had a few hens named hawk, eagle, etc.... They have such an intense look.

I'm loving your blog! Thanks for finding me!

Sonia said...

Eagle looks very beautiful!

Thank you for your visit and nice words and compliment about my language! And I am glad you appreciate the bilingual post.

Rurality said...

Yep, handsome and sweet, any hen's dream. :)

Big Red is still allowed in the coop at night, but he goes in late and stays far from Eagle.

Oh, the pan is stainless... it probably appears tan because it's reflecting the dead grass.

Chickens definitely have their own ideas about social order. If one of them is ever wounded and weak, the others will pick on it. They are not exactly kind to each other.

It is possible to avoid bonding with them... but it's not nearly as much fun. Still, I was ready to butcher Big Red (or rather, make hubby do it!) rather than have him be a threat. He could put a kid's eye out very easily.

Thanks for the chicken expertise Allison! His comb is so different from the other Easter Egger rooster we used to have.

I've already been thinking about next spring's chicken order. Hubby says, "Nut we'll have to get 25 if we order them through the mail." While I'm thinking, "How can I narrow it down to only 25?!" :)

Alan said...

Try mixing boiling water with some of their layer feed until it's the consistency of stiff grits then let them have it while it's still hot. In the winter time this will often help them get past a laying slump.


Stacie said...

Roosters are so pretty, but they scare me to death!

KFarmer said...

My Red Stars used to lay all year around. The only problem with them is they do not sit. But, on the upside, you can get a straight run as the roosters are white and a sweeter chicken you will never meet. I can't wait to retire and start my farm back up- hopefully this SPRING :)

Ki said...

Red is a domesticated chicken. Eagle looks to be the wilder jungle fowl tha t chickens descended from. No contest. Eagle is the type of bird they use in cock fights. Better to separate Red from Eagle or his days are numbered.