August 5, 2014

Rules With An Iron Claw

Dan calls him “The Sultan” because he keeps his little harem of Buff Orpingtons in check. He's the third reigning rooster we've had and it's interesting how different the three have been. They've all done what roosters do, but not exactly the same way.

The Sultan, our Silver Laced Wyandotte rooster
The Sultan, our current rooster, a Silver Laced Wyandotte

Lord B, our Barred Holland rooster
Our 1st rooster Lord B, a Barred Holland
Our first rooster was a Barred Holland. I called him Lord Barred Holland (or Lord B) because of his lordly manner; Dan called him B. He was almost perfect: always watchful, always on the alert, deferential toward his hens, and non-aggressive toward humans. At least that was initially the case. As he got older he did show some signs of aggression toward us (a big no-no and absolutely not allowed). His biggest fault, however, was that he was entirely intolerant of new additions to the flock, pullets as well as cockerels. After killing one, he had to go.

Cowboy, our Buff Orpington rooster
Our 2nd rooster Cowboy, a Buff Orpington
Our second rooster was a Buff Orpington. We named him Cowboy because of his approach toward his hens. Rather than do a courtship dance to get their attention as Lord B had done, Cowboy would puff out his chest and wings, then charge the hens, and grab on like a rodeo rider. Cowboy did not have all the natural roostering qualities. My oldest Barred Holland hen had to teach him that any goodies he found were for the hens, not himself. I don't know how many times she had to rush in and gobble down his food-finds until he learned to simply announce them and step back to let the girls enjoy. But he did catch on.

Last year Dan became interested in Silver Laced Wyandottes so we decided to give this breed a try. Of our three SLW cockerels, The Sultan was the last one left after the elimination process. When he first realized he was the only roo, he chased down each of the hens in turn and simply stood on top of her. Eventually it got to the point where any time he approached a hen, she would hunker down in obedience before he could grab her. This is mostly true of the Buffs. The Wyandotte and Speckled Sussex hens have minds of their own. They go where they please and as fast as they can if The Sultan in on their tail. But the Buffs can almost always be found in a cluster with The Sultan standing tall and proud in their midst.

We have mostly Buff Orpingtons, with 3 SLW hens & 3 Speckled Sussex

To his credit, he respects the humans and keeps out of the way. He is very alert and very quick to round up all the hens if he hears a hawk or one flies overhead. Because he rules with an iron claw, they heed and obey. I've not lost a chicken to hawks so far this year.

The other really nice quality about this rooster is that he does not bother the chicks. Lord B was aggressively intolerant of new chicks, while Cowboy would simply take pleasure in tormenting them. He loved to sneak up from behind and grab a beakful of feathers. He would proudly parade these around while the youngster ran squawking. The Sultan, however, doesn't seem to take notice of them and leaves them alone. That's a huge plus in my book and he may have a longer career on the homestead than the others.

Rooster tales, anyone? I'd love to hear your stories about your roosters.

16 comments:

Chris said...

Roosters, yeah been there and learned quite a few lessons. Like don't buy "show" roosters because they're bred for looks and nothing else.

Also, if too many cockerels are raised in the flock, stress is inevitable. We had a really aggressive one that like Lord B, would go anyone. Similar story when we dispatched him, the rest of the cockerels started ganging up on the hens.

Luckily for us, there was one lad in the same group that I always thought was a keeper. He was bold but never aggressive. He'd back down from a fight with his aggressive brother, but as we learned after that one was dispatched, this other guy started assuming the alpha position.

He would protect the hens, by dividing his brothers away from them. He wouldn't attack them, just act boldly - it was enough to intimidate them and they'd back away.

It was only when this guy started to mature and mate with the hens, that the other cockerels started getting out of line with the hens again. Any moment he was doing his deed, they were ganging up on another hen.

Good news is we culled all cockerels accept the gentleman. He was so great, we loved him. Unfortunately, we had to dispatch him when a myriad of different circumstances, saw we wouldn't be breeding hens any more.

He was so placid when David culled him. He didn't flap when picked up, he trusted us completely. It was sad to see him go, not just because he was the best rooster ever, but because we wouldn't be raising chicks any more.

It was the best decision we could have made for the flock, given our (then) circumstances.

Holly Lovig-Jensen said...

Just stumbled across your blog. I really enjoy reading it. My family and are leaving suburbia in 2 weeks to live in the country and start a Homestead. I started a Blog to document the Journey. We have no idea what we are doing but excited for the adventure. We definitely want to give chickens a try. I laughed out loud when you described Cowboy. Homesteading Holly on FB or its called Suburbia to sustainability on blogger. Looking forward to forming homesteading and blogging connections.

Sue said...

Our main Rooster is always called Caldwell and always will be, we are currently on Caldwell II.

Caldwell the First led a long and very productive life living happily with his five sons until they all laid down their lives defending the flock. Hence the fact that his name will live on.

We have had other roosters that ran concurrent with him, as we never cull a bird unless it's in pain or disrupting the dynamics of the flock.

Of these Norman was our biggest Rooster a New Hampshire Red and a very fine specimen, but he had a gammy leg and walked with a limp, when he injured his other leg we unfortunately had to help him meet his maker but such was my Lovely Hubby's appreciation of this magnificent bird he had a good Christian burial rather than ending up surrounded by roasting potatoes.

Currently Caldwell II has a young pretender in the form of Flash who is of unknown parentage, both are Bantam sized birds, but where Caldwell defends the flock and makes sure his ladies are well fed and happy, Flash is first to the tasty treats and first to run at any sign of danger, if he continues to push Caldwell out of the flock as he is starting to do I think you know who will end up in a very tasty casserole.

I find they are all characters but some are characters that steal a little piece of your heart.

Dawn McHugh said...

Our first every rooster was inherited with a flock, we called him Tyson, he would puff out his chest looking for a fight every time hubby went into the run, he would come out fighting baring his tallons, often hubby had to fight him off with a swift kick to the chest but he was solid, he never bothered with me then one day he went for my grandson of 3 and that was it Tyson was despatched.
We have 2 running with our girls now a Summatra called Nigel, very skittish nervous bird and a Silky called Gizmo, he is very friendly but never sleeps in the hen house he has his own bedroom he is first up in the morning and last to bed at night but if it rains he runs indoors were Nigel will stay out in all weathers, it seems like they do shifts and get on really well as a flock.

Leigh said...

Chris, your experiences echo ours to a "T"! Seems a gentlemanly rooster is rarer than the other kind but definitely worth it once he's found! I just hope he doesn't get crankier as he gets older. I appreciate hearing about your experience.

Holly, hello and welcome! How exciting for you! Blogging the journey is an excellent idea and I'm on my way over for a visit.

Sue, it's so true that they are characters! I've heard some roosters get along well with others and will actually share the responsibilities. We haven't had that yet, but we've never had enough hens to accommodate more than one rooster either. Thanks for sharing your rooster stories.

Dawn, that is so interesting that he only went for your husband. Did he sense the male "competition", I wonder(?) Bad news to attack your grandson, however. I hope it wasn't a traumatic experience for him! Some folks seem to tolerate an aggressive rooster but we will not, either.

Farmer Barb said...

My neighbors find all the "baa-ing" and "bleee-ing" of the sheep and goats charming. They liked my eggs when I had hens. I am not too sure of the reception I would get with a roo on top of it all!

shannon templeton said...

We have big chickens (buffs and aracanas)and bantys. The banty roosters are very protective of their hens and their chicks. The roosters in our flock of bantys are as actively involved in raising the chicks as the hens.

Leigh said...

Barb, rooster crowing is definitely not charming! When we first got chickens I asked the two closest neighbors if the crowing bothered them. Both grew up on farms so it didn't. Not sure what we would do if it did!

Shannon, I've heard really great things about the bantam breeds. I might should consider getting a few someday myself.

tpals said...

Roosters can be wonderful. I love how a good one can keep peace in the flock. My current roo is Mycroft, son of Frodo, son of Duke. Some of this years hatchlings are so handsome, it's going to be hard to dispatch them, but I only keep one rooster at a time. It's too stressful when they compete.

Harry Flashman said...

In 1999 I got three hens and two roosters from a friend. They were "English Fighting Chickens" which may not be a breed, so much as just a moniker for chickens raised expressly for cock fighting. That's illegal here but goes on all the time.

Several years later, a black bantee hen showed up out of the forest. After that, my flock of all brown chickens began to be spotted with black chickens, and now most of them are black.

I always have five or six roosters around. They usually consist of one dominant individual and the others all avoid him. Sometimes, but rarely, I will come home and the Roosters will have had a fight , with one of them laying out in the meadow dead.

Mark said...

Our young Golden Polish roo Fred is just coming into his voice and just starting to act a bit like a rooster. Now that he is the only guy in the bunch he's starting to do more rooster things like lookout duty and hen herding, although it's a little early to tell what kind of flock keeper he will be.

Growing up we had a couple of big Rhode Island Reds roosters with the flock. One got mean and never learned anything different. Mom left him for dead more than once with a frying pan she used to protect herself when hanging out laundry. After one such a attack Mom had a 'parental discussion' with Dad and the old boy ended up having a long soak in a stew pot with Mom gleefully working up the gravy.

His less surly brother survived for several more years. Once when having a large family reunion at the farm, three of the girl cousins who were from Detroit and maybe 8 or 9 at the time decided to spend the night in the back our big 1960-something Ford station wagon parked in the open front garage. This was in mid-summer, so very early the morning the big boy with big voice let loose with his chicken-tenor barnyard aria just outside the garage. A few hours later, the rest of us woke up to three very grumpy young ladies now trying salvage the morning on the living room floor. My Dad laughed about that for decades.

Renee Nefe said...

I've never kept chickens myself, but I grew up next door to a neighbor who had chickens and a horse (we shared a chain link fence.)
They had multiple roos as we were constantly serenaded by the crowing from sun up to sun down.
My mom raised Shetland Sheepdogs who kept in great shape trying to herd the chickens, by running up and down the fence line. This distressed the neighbors greatly as they just knew that our vicious dogs were attempting to eat their chickens. However, no chickens were EVER lost to our dogs...even when a few flew over the fence into our yard. Instead our dogs rounded them up as is their inherited job.

Holly Lovig-Jensen said...

Thank you for touching base with me. I am eager to have a mentor in the world of homesteading and blogging. I look forward to staying in touch.

Su Ba said...

Roosters around my homestead always ended up in the pot. But I just recently acquired a rooster from a friend for breeding purposes. It will be the first time we've had one on the farm that will have the opportunity to crow. He's half Rhode Island Red and half Araucana. His mother was an excellent layer. I plan to offer him some Rhodies and Araucana girlfriends and let the Australorps incubate the eggs. We shall see how this plan works out.

Leigh said...

tpals, it's amazing how different they can be. I agree with only one at a time, although others seem to do well with several. Seems to depend on the roosters.

Harry, on occasion I pass by a place that has an area divided into little rooster huts, each with it's own rooster. I'm guessing cock fighting is illegal everywhere but obviously the sport persists. Amazing how much that one little hen changed your flock!

Mark, I'm with your mom! I will not keep an aggressive rooster around. Especially now that our oldest granddaughter can "help" feed the chickens. I found it interesting how an only roo learns to step up to the plate. Some seem to be naturals, others need a little training.

Renee, yes, those roosters love to crow! Very interesting about the Shetland Sheepdogs. (Reminds me of the movie Babe LOL). Instincts are very strong.

Holly, you're welcome! I always try to return blog visits, although this time of year I get so busy with homestead stuff that I get behind. We can learn a lot from one another, and blogging is a great way to keep a record of the journey.

Su Ba, I hope you get lots and lots of chicks! Even better, I hope your new roo takes them all in stride. :)

Quinn said...

I would like to have a nice rooster here, but the last one was beautiful, protective of the hens, and an alarm bell when birds of prey tried to swoop. BUT he also snuck up behind me and went for my legs, and I couldn't seem to break him of it. The night he snuck up and threw himself against my upper back - felt like I'd been whalloped with a sack of flour! - was the final straw, and he had to go.
Years ago I had two lovely White Rock roosters, who never gave me a moment's trouble. I'd really love to have that quality of rooster again.