Thursday 7 June 2012

Rooster Trouble

I am beginning to feel like a real chicken breeder most days.
I have a lot to learn about breeding in certain traits, but as far as keeping healthy and productive birds, and producing great offspring,
I have everything well in hand.
Most days.

There was a considerable setback today.
While we have been worried about losing our best birds to the Fox,
it was a battle royale that cost us at least one and maybe two of our roosters.

Roosters are known for fighting, but once a pecking order has been established, the fighting ceases.
Or so I thought.
Of our five birds, each had different traits.
The biggest was, well...the biggest, and typical for the breed.
There is another big rooster with a somewhat tighter comb.
Two of them are identical to each other and are average size, but typical.
The fifth was the smallest but also the most colourful.

When you breed chickens, some traits you favour, others you try to eliminate.
Gold-Laced Wyandotte roosters are supposed to be docile,
so no aggressive individual should be permitted to breed.
The colourful rooster was nicer than our original rooster (Fox casualty last year), but he still displayed some aggressive behaviour.
Despite being the smallest bird, he insisted on trying to work his way up the pecking order.
If he gave up easily it wouldn't have been so bad.
But he didn't get the hint and would carry a fight on too long.
This happened before a few times, but today the implications were more dire.

Little Tobo, the colourful male, figured he should try to take top spot.
That was occupied by the largest male.
Tobo was soundly defeated, but failed to realize the inevitable outcome.
The fight left him badly beaten up and bloodied.
Incidentally, if you break these fights up, you merely create a pause.
In order for the fight to end, both parties must agree on the winner.

This was expected and he would heal.
The problem that I failed to foresee was that the large male was exhausted after delivering defeat to Tobo.
This left him vulnerable to attack by the other roosters who would not normally try to take his place.
The attacker was also badly beaten, but the cost to the big male was considerable.
He has probably lost sight in one eye, and was in shock late this afternoon.
I hadn't noticed what was going on or I would have separated everyone for the rest of the day.

By the evening, Tobo was recovering well,
the second attacker was badly damaged,
the other medium bird was hiding,
the other big rooster had been aloof from all of the fighting,
and the big male I put on his roost and will hope he makes it through the night.

Now, I'm not the kind of person that leaves problems unsolved if I can avoid it.
Had Tobo not foolishly started the fighting, there would have been no battles.
The chickens do much of their posturing when they are younger, and the pecking order stays fairly stable.
The big boys never fought each other; they knew who would win without fighting.
Tobo, being more colurful, may have been influenced by some mixed breeding somewhere along the line.
Most people keep several breeds and mistakes happen.
Our last rooster had similar traits and was chosen for his outgoing nature and brilliant plumage.
These characteristics are likely not Wyandotte.
Regardless, all livestock breeding should favour docile behaviour.
Tobo was not going to fit the standard.

And so, with a heavy heart, we went from five roosters to four.
It was particularily difficult because Auren had named him.
But this is not a hobby farm.
We are working hard to foster a heritage breed;
not only to maintain the line, but also to improve it.

Tomorrow brings new concerns.
The heirarchy has been badly disturbed and must be brought back into balance.
They will need supervision all day until I am comfortable that everyone knows their place.
And now a greater scrutiny falls upon the little cockerels who are still developing.
There is a now vacancy to be filled.

1 comment:

  1. Your rooster stories remind me of the book "Lord of the Flies"