The challenge of roosters

Susan Manzke
Beautiful Gibby, the rooster, when he was king of the roost.

Last year, we allowed two of our hens to brood a few eggs. Four hatched. Three survived. It wasn’t until later that we found out two were roosters, leaving us only one productive hen.   

Having cute chicks around entertained our grandchildren when they came to visit. Immediately they claimed a chick as their own and named it — this was before we knew which was male and which was female.     

Arianna chose to name her’s Caramel. Eli said to call his Gibby. Wyatt decided his bird would be Fluffy. I took the fourth as my own and when one disappeared I also claimed it to be mine — it was hard to tell one from another at this stage.

Any time they visited, our grandchildren had to check on their chicken. It turned out that Caramel was the hen. Eventually, she started laying eggs.

Wyatt was upset about this occurrence. He couldn’t understand why Fluffy wasn’t laying eggs, too. We explained that Fluffy would never give him an egg because he was a boy, but Fluffy could crow and Caramel couldn’t — at least I didn’t think she would crow. I have heard of odd occurrences when hens did crow, but I’ve never had one.

Having more than one rooster turned out to be a problem. Gibby ruled the roost. He grew faster than Fluffy and started bossing the flock around. I began to fear for Fluffy’s safety.

Fluffy, the new king of the roost.

Most days, when I opened the coop door, Fluffy hurried outside, trying to get away from Gibby. During the flocks time out of doors, Fluffy stayed far from Gibby. Once in a while, he’d find a hen and do what roosters do, but mostly he was alone.

When I went to release the chickens one day, I found two bloody roosters. It must have been a terrible fight. To my surprise, it was Gibby who had come out worse.   

Maybe Fluffy had finally grown up, or maybe he just couldn’t take being harassed by Gibby anymore, but he sure came out the better of the two.     

All went outside, but Gibby went and hid. When evening came, he didn’t come back to the coop. I eventually found him, but he was deep under a bush where I couldn’t reach him.      

I left him food and water. Gibby stayed by himself for about a week and then he disappeared. A raccoon might have ended his life but I can’t be sure. There wasn’t a lot of evidence left behind.

I worried about telling our grandchildren that basically Fluffy had killed Gibby.

Roosters and hens come and go on the farm. It’s a fact of life that some die, but this is the first wicked rooster fight we’ve ever had.      

I talked to Rachel about my predicament. She said not to tell the kids about the fight. “Just tell them that he ran away. Having a rooster fight might be too much for them.”

Wyatt had visited with his mother that day. He was happy to see his rooster and understood about Gibby running away. I’m sure when he told Eli his brother was upset about losing his rooster, but no one heard about the bloody fight.

Today, I’m keeping an eye on two hens setting on a few eggs. I limit the number by marking the ones for hatching and removing other unmarked eggs if any other hen deposits one in the nest.       

We may have a few chicks in a week or two. It all depends if the hens are diligent. My only worry is having grandchildren naming and adopting the newcomers again. My fingers are crossed that no roosters are hatched. I can’t take the mayhem.

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com. www.susanmanzke.net.