Monday, September 7, 2009

You Can have too many roosters

I have been threatening to change the name of our place from Treffynnon Farm (which roughly translates from Welsh as "the farm by the stream"), to the more apt "Cockerel Corner" due to the large number of roosters we seem to be collecting.

We started out with two: one Rhode Island Red rooster who protects our egg-laying hens, and one Blue Chinese Cochin Bantam who came with his two lady friends. Along the way in my chicken rearing history of the past five years, roosters came and went, much to the delight and annoyance of my Atlanta neighbors. Now we live in a rural area, and everyone has a few chickens, maybe some ducks or doves. In the last year we have hatched several batches of Cochins (they are such broody girls!), but I think we win the prize topping out this week eleven roosters, with one baby I think will also turn out to be male. That will give us an even dozen.
This is not a good thing. Roosters are good to have around only for protection of the hens, they aren't needed for egg production since the hen lays eggs every day (or every other day) whether there is a 'man' around or not. If you have more than one, they will fight, most often to the death of one or another. Having a rooster does give one fertilized eggs, which can be hatched into more chickens or sold as having (in some circles) specific health properties. This brownish rooster was our "Gift With Purchase" chicken that we got when we ordered our chicks back in April. "Buy 25, get a Rare Heirloom Breed (hatchery choice) at no charge!!! We'll also include an extra chicken of the type you purchase just for buying". We are waiting for it to get older so we have a shot at identifying the breed.

So we got 25 females guaranteed plus one free rooster Silver-Laced Wyandotte and one free Unknown Chicken who turned out a rooster, too. What a surprise.

Plus, we have five Cochin bantam roosters who hang out together and argue a little bit. We call them the "Gang of Five".The bantam rooster who is top of the heap of the little chickens is Colonel Boogie and he is one tough little guy. He weighs maybe four pounds and has fended off hawks, crows, and a huge turkey vulture. He has earned his place as head of the bantams. The Gang of Five bows down to him at all times.

The big rooster Rhode Island Red is "Big Boy", and he is the one who lost his tail feathers to the possum. He has earned his spot in the pasture just by being able to wake up the household so we could battle the possum for him. He couldn't stand up to that huge bastard all by himself, so I helped him out a little, me and my metal fence post.

With such a plethora of roosters, we are faced with the choice of a) letting them have the run of the place, crowing at all hours and possibly annoying the neighbors and us, or b) butchering them and eating them. I have to be honest and blunt, although Barry will grumble at me for revealing it: I am in the "b" camp. I vote we eat them, even though the bantams are small and probably pretty tough at this age. Yes, they are beautiful, and yes, I'm sure they would make someone somewhere really nice show roosters, but no one wants roosters. They are useless and we have too many of them. Barry votes for "a", and so far seems to be winning, mostly due to apathy and inertia on my part.

We have done in two roosters since we've been here, but those two were Evil Roosters and needed to be Done In. They crowed at all hours. ALL. HOURS. It started at midnight, which got our other roosters going, then continued until dawn and then all day. It was tiresome. Plus, they attacked every human who got near them, and I just don't truck with no evil roosters. My baseball bat and I have a little talkin' to do to them roosters if they come flying at my face, which they did, and we did. But when it came time to do the deed and butcher them, I did it with as much kindness as I could muster, but I had no regrets. Unfortunately, they were too old by the time we butchered them and were both far too tough to eat. I guess they got the last laugh on us.

If anyone is interested in having an adorable, fluffy, sweet, funny-crowing pet bantam rooster, drop me a line. I'll deliver him in Atlanta or mail him for anywhere else in the lower 48 states of this great rooster growing country.

Cock a' doodle doo, y'all.

Just Mucking Around

This week Barry rented a mini-excavator to dig out the little mud puddle at the rear of our roods to turn it into a proper pond. You can see what it looked like before here.

When we bought the farm last summer we knew that we had a variety of small creeks that come together just in the back part of our property because even in the driest year ever there were three trickles of water heading into the triangle. Once the rains started coming down this winter, we discovered we really did have a pond. This is good news for us since it will help us with our pastured animals.

Ever since we've moved it has been on Barry's mind to widen the pond's walls, clean out the silt and muck, and make something pretty and useful.

Eventually we will plant shrubs and other vegetation on the banks and also add water plants. If we can stand the mosquitoes, it should be a nice place to visit in the afternoons.

Barry is so happy on his machine he stays at it for hours at a time. I mean HOURS, like six or seven, before I make him come in for something to eat and drink.

I'm hoping he'll have time to dig a foundation for my new smokehouse. More on that as (if) it progresses.

See you on the farm!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


We only had two watermelons fruit off the one vine that survived the intense heat and lack of rain this summer. The first melon was the size of a baseball and rotted before I could harvest it. This one that I took off the vine this morning is a nice icebox size and only has a small spot on the bottom where it got a little too much moisture during the last rain. It is a 'Moon and Stars' heirloom variety.

This is the rest of the morning take: pink tomatoes (some still a bit green but delicious fried) banana peppers, jalapeno peppers both green and red, and said watermelon. I'm planning on pickling the peppers with some okra we got from a neighbor. The watermelon we'll have for desert tonight. Should all be dee-licious.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Free Ranging

We've had a few changes recently here on the farm. After keeping our chickens under cover of chicken wire and in large pens for months, we've let them all out on the pasture to forage for themselves. This was a decision made to give them a better life, and us better eggs. Plus it is easier on the feed costs. We had closed them in because of the hawks that have been living in the area. We lost three chickens in two days early this spring, and we just couldn't stand to lose anymore, so we put them under cover.

A month or so ago our Silver-Laced Wyandottes were just too big to keep in their pen any longer, so we pastured them inside a large electric fence that we move weekly. So far the hawks haven't bothered them, even though they are easy pickings. I think the chickens are too big for the average hawk, which is about the same size. So now that all the chicks are grown, we hope the hawks won't bother with any of them, at least until next spring when they have to feed their own chicks, and I suppose then we'll close up our gang for a few weeks to keep them safe. Now the ducks and all the chickens can range free on our property. The small bantams have been finding their way into the dog's area, but our Azawakh don't seem at all interested in them. Lucky for the little chickens they were the ones on the field when the chicks came in for the 'greener grass' in with the dogs. They have all escaped injury, and the Wickles (as I call them) have gotten a lot of brownie points with Barry.

We have a few new additions to the flock. Recently we visited a farmer friend of ours in N. Georgia who raises Cornish Cross chickens for one of the 'big box' chicken companies. The ones you get at your local supermarket are raised in places like our friend farms. Every seven weeks he gets a delivery of 100,000 day old chicks to raise in his four computer-run long houses. He often has a few extra, so we took home 10 from a recent delivery just 18 days ago.

We are raising these for ourselves and friends as an experiment to see if we can take a hybrid bird with great meat, but raise them more slowly (10-12 weeks instead of 7) and use forage and organic feed. It will be a challenge as these birds are bred to eat constantly. To control their growth we have to control their feed. They aren't great foragers, so we won't worry about what they find themselves, but they are greedy with the feed. If we are successful, we'd like to raise new broilers four times a year and offer them to friends. They sure do make a good dinner. I'll let you know how it goes.

See you on the farm!