The hens are settled into their new home and seem to be content with the coop and run. They have more space than they had in the past along with grass and foliage for them to forage through. They have begun to roost in the coop instead of huddling up in the corner as a group and have finally started to lay eggs in the bedding offered instead of on the ground outside. To the unknowing observer, everything would seem fine and dandy for these ladies, but I haven’t addressed the elephant in the room, er, the rooster in the yard.
Johnny is an Americauna rooster who was acquired through poor sexing at the hatchery. There were originally two roosters, but Foghorn wandered off shortly after being kicked from the group when he became aggressive and would prevent the hens from coming into the doorway of the chicken tractor. Johnny was a late bloomer though. For the longest time, I was unsure if he was even a he. His comb is but slightly larger than that of the hens and his spurs and saddle feathers are nearly non-existent. Unlike Foghorn, who crowed on the hour throughout the day, Johnny is a silent roo and can be faintly heard between 5:30 and 6:00 on some mornings. The one thing that made me think this Americauna was a rooster was its size. Johnny stands about 6″ taller than the 3 hens of the same breed. When he outgrew the chicken tractor, I pulled him out and he has since been living in an old dog house near the coop. He does not have a run and freely roams the yard. If he remained docile, I intended to keep him until next spring in hopes that we could rear a batch of chicks or two. Until lately, he had kept to himself and still had a slight fear of me coming near. That is until we let the hens out into an open run.
The day I moved the hens from their chicken tractor to their more permanent coop and run, I knew problems were going to arise. Upon introduction to the new territory, 4 hens began pecking the ground and searching for insects, and one, an Americauna named Roxette, paced the fence and taunted Johnny. Pecking and fluttering through the fence was the least of my worries though. Roxette, who I soon realized would have been more suit to the name Roxanne, found her way over the four-foot fence the day after she was moved in. I came home from work to find her and Johnny strutting through the tall grass behind the pen. I approached the two of them and Johnny went fleeing to his home. I cornered her between the fence and the chicken tractor that had been her previous domicile, picked her up, and placed her over the fence. She quickly ran into the coop and began pecking the water trough inside. I guess all those extra-curricular activities made her thirsty.
Stumbling upon Roxette and Johnny became less of a surprise every time it happened. It became such a common occurrence that I arrived home from work one day and found myself surprised that she was still in the run with the rest of the girls. I thought maybe the relationship was just a fling and that she must be over him, but I was mistaken. The next day, she had once again climbed out the theoretical window and snuck away with her beau. I had been keeping an eye on her to make sure she wasn’t brooding or sitting this entire time as the chance of chicks making it through the winter now is slim to none. She seemed to act normal and I hadn’t identified any other issues arising from these co-ed visits, until yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, I arrived home in the rain and see that once again, Roxette was out and in desperate need of a dry place to go. Johnny was nowhere to be seen, so I assumed he had taken shelter in his home. Like most other days, I approached the cold, wet hen to replace her into the coop. She clucked as she always does in this situation until I set her down in the coop. I slid the deadbolt clasps back into place and turn around to find one very agitated rooster giving me what I can only assume is the cockerel version of a death stare. He reared his head back in what seemed like an attempt at intimidation. While I was gone that day, the two must have decided to go steady and that meant nobody touches his girl. He stepped towards me and spread his wings while simultaneously squawking. I quickly reached for a conveniently placed rake that had been leaned against the garage and placed it between he and I. In all scenarios prior, this act would have him running like the chicken he is, but not this time. Love had flipped a switch inside of him and he had, in turn, taken the stereotypical path of an ornery rooster. As I quickly scuttled to the house, rake in hand, Johnny followed me up past the garage and stopped at the end of the walk to the house. He strutted as if he had won with the upper hand, er, talon.
Love can make a man do a lot of crazy things, and this is no different regarding my rooster Johnny. Roxette has pulled on his heartstrings and he made a choice that has forced a grave decision on my part. I would like to consider my home and yard a safe place for my family to spend time. I don’t need to live with the fear that a decision I did or didn’t make could hurt anyone in my life. I briefly considered building an enclosure for him to live in but the resources it would take to do so would long outweigh the 4$ per chick cost we would pay in the spring without his services. I can’s say that I was ever really attached to him. In a mere few hours, Johnny has gone from our timid free range rooster with a long life expectancy to a wanted felon enjoying the few hours he has left in my yard (with Roxette, I presume.) As for her, she may not stay in the run with the other hens any more than she does now. However, I will feel much safer knowing that I won’t get attacked by her vagrant boyfriend every time I return her to her proper home.