Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Rooster in the Hen House

Has the "chick-bug" bit you?  Are you starting to think that maybe, a flock of chickens might be in your future, too?  Well, a little planning is helpful.  Depending on how you purchase your chicks, these fluffy little cheepers are normally available in early spring to early summer. 

If you order directly from a hatchery, most require a minimum order of 25 chicks.  This is primarily so they keep each other warm during their trip and allows them to have a higher rate of survival.  Living in town, I did not want 25 chicks nor did I know anyone off the top of my head that wanted to split an order.  Our local farmers' co-op orders a variety of chick breeds a few times during the early spring.  For us that was a great way to purchase a smaller number and also get a few different breeds.

Living within the city limits, our local codes allow us to have hens but no roosters.  Chicks are so cute and so tiny and so fluffy...  But how do you tell the difference between the boys and the girls?  Well, thankfully that is done for you before they arrive.  Chickens are sexed at the hatchery and shipped according to your or the co-op's order.  You can order chicks by breed in a "straight run", meaning you get whatever they ship, or you can specify pullets (females) or cockerels (males).  Sexing chicks, even in this day and age, is not an exact science.  When shipping pullets, there is a small chance that some boys may have gotten into the box with the girls...  Those little stinkers...

Well, when we decided on how many chicks we wanted we took the "roo" factor into consideration and started with 8 instead of the original 6.  When the chicks were about a month old, we noticed one of our Buff Orpingtons, Ethel, was developing a little differently than the rest of the girls.  Ethel's comb and wattles were much more pronounced.  She had fewer feathers than the rest of the girls.  She also seemed a little more assertive than the others.  Hmmmm...  It appeared our Ethel was not who she appeared to be at all!  We had an imposter...  Now what to do with...Elmer???

Some would keep the chicks in question until they were 1,000% sure that indeed, they had a rooster.  But not knowing how quickly Elmer would be adopted, I decided to take immediate action.  I did not want to be the owner of a crowing rooster, and be the scourge of the neighborhood as well as a law-breaker!  So I called the farmers co-op for suggestions.  They mentioned a local livestock auction as a possible solution.  The problem with that was the auction is about 30 miles away.  So we could sell him and probably get $1-2 for him (and cost us about $15 in fuel to get him there) or...

So, I put Elmer on Craigslist.  For free.  We had a nice couple come and get him within 18 hours of me placing my ad and had about a half-dozen others who would have gladly taken him as well.  It didn't cost me anything, they got a rooster that they wanted for free, and Elmer is now in a good home where he can do what God intended him to do.  I love Craigslist.

So now, we have our 7 girlies.  I don't know if they miss Ethel-turned-Elmer or not, but I'm sure glad to know that I won't have one of our town's "finest" knocking on our door to investigate an ongoing disturbance in our neighborhood.

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