This autumn is proving to be a time of rampant indecision in the Hen house. For those of you who don’t just scroll past my chickeny posts and move on to reading about food, lip gloss, sparkly shoes or politics (hey, not all readers are created alike!), you may be interested in a quick update on the fate of Pingu, the young cockerel I rescued from the jaws of the fox earlier this summer.
Our little black beauty is now five moths old, and he has blossomed into a large and exotic looking bird sporting an interesting mix of his father’s Buff Orpington plumage mixed in a DNA soup with his Silver Lace mother. The resultant iridescent green/black plumage doesn’t show up well in this photo, but he is stunning. He is also shy, polite and well mannered, if I may say so.
Here is is, the little black chick with the white bib… hence his name!
I am currently knee deep in cockerels! I have a full Buff Orpington male of the same age as Pingu who will be butchered soon, as we have no plans to use him for breeding. His three sisters will be laying soon, and brother/sister matings are not genetically sound.
Of the fifteen additional chicks we hatched out this year, eight remain. Six hens went to start up a coop for some friends of mine, and the remainder are looking like four cocks and four hens. The boys will be ready for the block around the end of the month/early November time, a task I am really not looking forward to. A couple of them are already looking just gorgeous in their speckled big-boy feathers… 😦
R.I.P. my beautiful chicks… all were killed in a fox attack except for Pingu, the man in black…
So here is my dilemma: Our present cock, Nilla, a Buff Orp/Warren cross, is a little over a year and is very kind to the girls. Seeing that there are two young cockerels now crowing and threatening to move in on his hens, Nilla is doing what all men would do: Protecting what is his own. Hence, some discord in the flock, though I do not believe either of the two younger cocks are mounting the girls (yet). Both of these youngsters are fast outsizing Nilla, and when push comes to shove in the future, I fear he will lose the battle.
Nilla, my handsome boy… I had to choose between him and his brother last year, and he was the gentlest. He is an excellent rooster.
HH insists we can rehome these two boys, but all breeders of poultry know that males are dime a dozen (sorry, fellas!) and are destined for the stew pot. Sadly, apart from a food source if butchered young enough, cocks are useful only for crowing and fighting if they don’t have their own chicks to chase. Just think Saturday night outside your local small-town bar: Pheromone soup + a few beers = the inevitable fist fight. (Ah hormones… so necessary… so cruel!)
Add to this the fact that my grandsons, who have helped “raise” Pingu from a chick, are pretty attached and I have been forbidden to kill him. Short of putting a fence down the center of my run to divide these two guys, I have no choice: Someone is going to have to go. And soon. HH and I are off to the states next week, and I dread to think what our house-sitter will have to face should the cockerels decide to fight…
This is Pingu, aged one day – the little black dude in the foreground.
This all probably sounds like a tempest in a teapot to most of y’all, but I tell you what: Butchering any member of your flock is never an easy task, no matter now many times you have to do it. Sure, we can always use the meat from the young birds – at least we know they have had good lives and eaten well. If I kill Nilla, he will become food for the kites or the fox…
Oh, what to do! And time is ticking away. I am feeling pretty cut up, and kicking myself for viewing this flock of 20 as pets. At least if I thought of them as dumb animals, putting them down wouldn’t feel so criminal.
Evil Mother Hen
pingu image: pingusenglish.com
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And now… to relieve the tremendous tension caused by this depressing post, here’s some El Pollo Loco fun for you! Believe me, killing a cockerel is no easy feat! First, you gotta catch it!