Territorial roosters nothing to crow about

Susan Manzke
Sheng Yang and Susan on Sunnybook Farm.

This past spring I had a couple of hens that insisted on brooding eggs. I limited them to a total of six eggs. When all six hatched the hens happily reared them. They taught them how to find insects and worms in our yard and how to keep out of trouble.

I had my fingers crossed that we had six hens. That didn’t happen. We ended up with four roosters and only two hens.

Adding two hens to our little flock seemed like a good idea, except we ran into trouble. Two older hens recently disappeared. Bob said he saw the flock pecking their way along the edge of the cornfield. He remembered seeing coyotes run across the road and into that field. I had heard them howling. Maybe they had shared two fat hens for supper.

Our over-abundance of roosters this year reminded me of last summer when we had a total of just four eggs hatch, three of them roosters. When they were chicks our grandchildren named them. Arianna named Caramel (the lone hen), Eli named Gibby, and Wyatt chose Fluffy as the name for his chick—I named the fourth. Five-year-old, Wyatt later wondered why his bird Fluffy never laid eggs. He felt cheated having a rooster.

Gibby turned into a beautifully colored rooster. Fluffy was a dark boy. One morning I found the results of a rooster fight. Fluffy had won—such a waste of a perfectly healthy rooster. Poor Gibby.

Now we were heading toward another rooster massacre.

I witnessed Fluffy chasing the younger four away from the hens any time they looked like they were getting close to his girls. He would also block their way into the roost in the evening. I found them sitting in very odd places, trying to keep their distance from Fluffy.

Something had to be done. I remembered my friend Sheng. I hadn’t seen her in years. But long ago we had a chicken partnership. Bob and I raised the chicks to meat weight and Sheng would finish the process—I stayed in the house while she butchered.

Too bad I couldn’t locate her contact information, not a phone number or an email address. I finally wrote her a letter and asked if she wanted the roosters—fingers crossed that she hadn’t moved. 

The letter worked. Yes, Sheng wanted the roosters. Yesterday, Sheng, her husband, Jacob, and their grown daughter, Delight, came to capture the birds.

Jacob Yang and one of the captured roosters—the odd rooster of the bunch without a large comb.

I kept the flock locked inside their roost. If they got out, there would have been no way to catch them in the open.

It was broad daylight when Sheng and I ventured into the roost. The birds flapped about wildly—it would have been easy to catch them at night as they can’t see well in the dark and don’t usually move about much.

What could we do? Did we have a fishing net? No. But that’s when I remembered a children’s butterfly net I had meant for our grandchildren. The material was weak netting, so probably it wouldn’t work, but I brought it out to the roost anyway.

Sheng was a marvel with the net. One by one she caught the roosters, including Fluffy. Each one went out the door, which I guarded to keep the chickens from escaping. The captured bird then went to Jacob and Delight. They tied each rooster’s legs together and put them in large boxes in the back of their pickup truck—when I went to take a look, one jumped out of the box but it couldn’t go far with its legs tied and was immediately caught.

All our roosters are gone. Next spring, if a hen or two of our remaining birds demands to brood, I’ll go to a friend’s farm and beg for a few fertile eggs.

Yummy eggrolls (still frozen) made by Sheng for Susan and Bob.

Today, Bob and I are enjoying the gift of homemade egg rolls from Sheng. Thank you, my friend for the food, but mostly thank you for freeing us from the inevitable rooster massacre. It’s better that they will feed your family.

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