The demise of the long-lived, unproductive king of the coop

Susan Manzke

Eight years ago, we had a few young hens and no rooster. To our chagrin, our dog Booker had grabbed the flock rooster and killed it. Later when the hens wanted to brood their eggs, without a rooster, their time would have been wasted. All I could do was take the eggs away until I could solve the dilemma.

Rooster, the late long-time king of the Sunnybook Farm flock.

When a friend heard of our problem, he said he had an extra rooster. “The bigger roosters in our flock keep beating him up,” said Jeb. “I’ll bring him over for you.”

A day or two later, there was a burlap bag on our back stoop. Inside was a rooster, a large silver bird. I couldn’t help but wonder how large Jeb’s bigger roosters were.

It wasn’t a problem adding the silver rooster to our flock—his only name was Rooster since he was the only one. This fellow seemed happy and took to his duties taking care of the hens from day one.

After accumulating enough eggs for a clutch, two of our hens set to work sitting on a nest of eggs. Too bad their efforts were useless. Rooster wasn’t fertilizing the eggs—he was shooting blanks. I had to get fertilized eggs from a different flock so I could slip them under these two hens. Eventually, a couple of the new adopted eggs hatched and both hens had a little family.

I don’t know why we kept Rooster all these years. He never did produce offspring. Who would have expected him to live so long? I sure didn’t. None of his early cohorts had survived eight years.

Different hens replaced the old. Each time one wanted to brood, I had to ask for substitute eggs to replace the ones Rooster had failed to fertilize. But what could I do now with a very, VERY old rooster? He wasn’t worth stewing and Bob wasn’t ready to shoot him.

Finally, Rooster became a problem. A new robust rooster was hatched this past July. By fall he was ready to usurp the old king, but Rooster wouldn’t have any of that. He chased the young bird away from the flock—this happened the year before until that young rooster became lethargic and died.

Rooster samples some oranges set out by the Manzkes for their Baltimore orioles.

I didn’t want that to happen again. Something had to be done.

One late evening, I snuck into the dark chicken roost and grabbed Rooster, leaving the young bird with the hens. Rooster stayed in the shed, close to the others, but I kept him separate.

A couple of evenings, Rooster didn’t come inside the shed near the flock. I found him outside, roosting on an old fence. Since I didn’t want him outside alone, I grabbed him and placed him inside. This happened a few times.

One day, Bob and I were away until late in the day. When we got home after ten, we checked the chickens and looked for Rooster. He wasn’t roosting anywhere nearby. We looked all around, but never found him.

In the morning, we came across a few feathers. Bob thinks a raccoon solved our problem of what to do with the old bird.

I can’t help but feel responsible for Rooster’s demise, but he had to go one way or another. Now we’re keeping our eyes open to make sure that raccoon doesn’t come back looking for another chicken dinner.

When our chicks hatched this past summer, we let three of our grandchildren name them. They called them Gibby, Caramel, and Fluffy. Gibby was our new rooster. A little later we found out that we had only added one hen to our flock—Fluffy is also a rooster. Let’s just hope we don’t have any problems. At least Rooster had never been aggressive like some past birds. Gibby and Fluffy will only get one chance if they chase grandchildren.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;