OOPS! That Isn’t a Hen

Remember these sweet little ladies?

Sure you do! From left to right, you’re looking at Misty Coopland, Mallory Archer, Ruth Layer Ginsburg, Lucky, Agnes Featherduster Junior (A.J.), and Ellen DeHeneres. Can you believe that these chipper chickens are now four months old and just about grown? Here are a few recent pics:

Mallory, looking smart and sassy.

Lucky and Ellen, picking bugs off my tomatoes. (Thanks, ladies! That’s a big help.)

And Ruth Layer Gins…Well, looks like this bird will now be known as Johnny Cockran.

How does such a thing happen? We purchased “sorted chicks, female” from our local farm co-op, afterall. True, there are different ways of analyzing the feathers and cloaca on a hatchling to make an educated guess about the chick’s gender. However, even the very best sex sorters are only 80-90% accurate. Thus, we have a rooster we didn’t plan on.

On the positive side, Johnny is doing a good job breaking up fights between the older hens and the young ladies. He even keeps everyone together while they patrol the yard for ticks, making it a little easier for Mr. Food It Yourself to guide them all back into their run.

The negative side of this situation is that we now know when daybreak is, and so do all of our neighbors. So far, we have not had any direct complaints related to our birds. The topic of backyard animal keeping is currently under scrutiny in our town, though.

On August 14th, 74 of my neighbors and I squeezed into the large conference room at our town hall (which seats a maximum of 75 people) to offer input to the Board of Health regarding proposed regulations on the keeping of farm-type animals by those of us who are not farmers. As of today, as long as Commonwealth law is followed, residents can keep whatever animals they like within town lines. This creates friction, of course, when folk on one side of a fence have a noisy bird and those on the other side like to sleep in. There have also been issues with manure management and animal trespass. The BOH was very receptive to input both from animal owners and those who live adjacent to animal owners. I dare say, it was the most civil, focused, and intelligent public hearing I have ever attended. The ultimate changes to town regulations, if any, are still pending. You had better believe I am keeping my eyes and ears open for updates.

So what shall we do about our rooster? There is a collar for that. There are several versions of crow-quelling bands that roosters can wear to cut the volume of their crow. They do not hurt or shock him, they just prevent him from expanding his syrinx (big air sack in the chest) to produce a full volume crow. Here is the one we opted for.

Last Saturday (not even 6 hours after the collar showed up in the mail) Mr. Food It Yourself slipped Johnny out of the coop after the flock went in for the night. We managed to get the collar on and under his ruff (neck feathers). You can hardly tell he’s wearing it! He managed to get it off the next day, so we repeated to process the next night. He has now stopped trying to pull the collar off each night, and we are gradually adjusting it to prevent his wake up call from resounding through the neighborhood. He needs another tweak tonight.

I like the fact that I live in a town where keeping farmy-type animals is permitted, and for the most part well accepted, and I really enjoy keeping my little flock. That said, I have to be a good neighbor as well as a good chicken tender. We may have to find alternate lodgings for Mr. Cockran, but I am confident we can get that collar adjusted and keep the peace in the ‘hood.

So, how’s your summer going? Share in the comments!