The Rooster who had big balls
Being raised as a city person has been an obstacle to my countification…..but I am trying hard to learn common sense and see rural living as the best ticket to survival at this point. My homestead, gardens, and especially chicken flock are giving me comfort as the news cycles explode and personal battles on PP are becoming less and less interesting.
I am a new chicken farmer. I started with a flock of 52 birds. 12 from Tractor supply (all pullets) and 40 from Ideal Poultry. One died as a chick ….to be expected….so I am told. All the rest grew. The 12 were 6 weeks older than the 40. The 12 started producing and I let them free range during the day and locked them up at night. The 40 were kept in a fenced area and also locked up at night.
About a week ago I lost 4 of my older girls to a predator during the day. Pretty sure it was 4 legged and not a hawk. I was heartbroken and apologized to the other Girls for not be a good guardian and quickly put up a 150’ x 200’ temporary fence to keep the girls closer. I used construction plastic orange fencing that comes in 100’ x 4’ rolls for $29….and teeposts driven very 10’ to 12’. And standoffs with a hot wire 10” off the ground on the outside…..So far no more kills.
But a second thing happened ….In the 40 younger ones I got through the mail 8 were roosters. They were fine for 4 months but when they got their testosterone …….or whatever equivalent hormone they get……..they got super aggressive with the pullets and during the fencing change I had to let the old girl’s flock merge with the younger flock. Although the Roosters were younger they were vicious with the old girls and literally gang raped my sweet laying hens.
So I quickly realized that although some people say as 6:1 hen to rooster ratio is good, I decided that a 25:1 ratio is better. So I had to learn how to butcher in one day. We were playing bluegrass/gospel music at a local benefit 3 days ago on Sunday and before the set we were talking chickens….which beats the hell out of talking politics…..and Linda said that she would lend me a chicken plucker machine. She said that it was the best thing ever invented. And Tom….our fiddle player ….offered to teach me how to butcher. So yesterday we sent 6 roosters to the frozen land. The highway department had donated some chicken cones to Linda many years ago and one fit perfectly on my heavy duty ladder. I had read that 145 degrees was optimal for dipping the birds to loosen the feathers but Tom said it needed to be 155.
It went smoothly….Took longer to set up and clean up than to butcher 6. The machine was amazing ….In 1 minute all the feathers were off and it didn’t damage the skin at all. Gutting was interesting but not difficult and it was amazing that one rooster had huge balls, compared to all the others. (Maybe he was the instigator of all the turmoil). Being a city person originally I didn’t even know they had that kind of equipment.
Learn to caponize!
How about a haiku instead?
A broody petite hen drinks
with the old capon
I don’t know what I would prefer if I was a rooster 🙂
Don’t try to caponize. Most roosters don’t survive that. Just eat them! We eat the testicles, livers, hearts of most of our animals. Pretty good grilled on skewers with veggies. We make an offal pasta too. It is odd to eat part of an animal and it is still alive in the field (Cut hogs).
The joke would have the word “cock.”
I’ve not managed to make my move to the country yet. I’ve raised quail though and done my share of reading.
One thing I learned is that we humans have made the temperaments of roosters worse by breeding them only for meat and/or eggs.
So you are likely to get some pretty good roosters if you go with what might be called “Heritage Breeds.” The Old English Game Cock is a good bird to have around and usually a good mate to as few as one or two hens.
Some of the rudest, most aggressive roosters are the Cornish Crosses (which happen to be a very popular breed now, lots of meat in a short amount of time).
btw: The word “Rooster” was invented for Queen Victoria because she didn’t want people to call them “cocks.”
1: In my 5th year of keeping chickens I had to replace the entire flock due to free-range predation (ballsy fox!) the previous fall. For the first time, I got a straight run of 25, intending to butcher all the males but 1 at 12 weeks of age. Things happened; the butchering was delayed some while. The females were, as you put it, gang raped – seems when one rooster starts in on one hen, the other roosters want to prove their spurs, too, with the same hen. It was a bad experience for the hens, all of whom suffered from lasting loss of back feathers; one died from wounds.
When I finally was able to butcher, I learned quickly that the particular breed of rooster doesn’t put on enough meat to make it worth the effort, and very surprisingly their body cavities are so small I couldn’t get my hand in to sweep the guts. I’ve raised 6 or 8 breeds; that was a first. I ended up transporting them live to an area sanctuary for predator birds where, in turn, they became feed.
I still have that flock. The hens are prodigious layers of overly-large eggs. I kept one rooster, who was not dominant among the roosters, and he has proven (as I hoped) a well-mannered fella. He’s the most docile rooster I’ve ever had, with absolutely no interest in attacking any human despite not having been handled young. It’s very clear that one of the hens is in charge of the roost, although she’s unusually benign, too. I’ve seen virtually no hen pecking or dominance displays since eliminating the excess roos.
Unfortunately, though, so far they haven’t proven at all broody. Next spring I’ll have to incubate my own next generation.
2: Setting up and cleaning up to butcher a half dozen birds is hardly worth the time and effort. Except we know where the birds come from, and what they’ve eaten.
— Hands down, I enjoy caring for and living with chickens more than any other domestic or domesticated animal.
I did not know that about Heritage Breeds being more docile. That might explain my current rooster’s good disposition.
I noticed even while the coop was filled with too many roos coming of age that their dominance games were not nearly as violent as I’ve seen in other settings, and almost never escalated to actual attack. They were far more like a couple drunk 20 year old guys bumping chests in a bar.
These are also a true Heritage breed cross, the mating of a Plymouth Barred Rock female and a male from the more primitive Andalusian. The breed is called Blue Plymouth Rock, and the parents of my birds were imported from The Czech Republic by a family hatchery (Freedom Ranger Hatchery) located in PA. They’re also where I get my true-bred Freedom Ranger meat birds, direct descendants of the French-bred breed that was originally developed for the prestigious French Red Label free range program. They take 12 weeks to maturity but, I swear, their fat is so delightful to touch it’s like raw lanolin – in butchering I constantly want to just rub it over my face and body, it just feels so good, so “right”! And it’s a superb meat, too.
I have no use at all for the Frankenbird Cornish Cross. But if I were going to raise them (8 weeks to butchering weight), I’d get the line propagated by this same hatchery because their strain (Ross 308) can at least walk around and even free range. The commercial versions (generically called White Broilers) raised in meat mills are prone to broken bones and organ malfunction because they’re strictly bred for breast meat size and fast growth, and their poor bodies can’t keep structural pace with their meat development. It’s disgusting what we’ve done to industrialize living creatures like that.