Raucous Roosters

by Elizabeth Beavis
If you have a civilized city flock of hens, you might not have had the pleasure of watching a rooster looking after his girls.  Both our roosters pay the hens close attention, they can usually be seen wandering around the yard with at least one or two hens following.  Whenever the rooster finds something to eat he has a special cluck to call his ladies over to share the treat.  He has another call to warn of danger, and he goes running to any hen that calls out in trouble.  One of our roosters used to wait each evening until all his hens were up on the roost before he would jump up to sleep there too.  Roosters can be over protective to the point that it can be difficult to collect the eggs without being attacked on entry to the pens.  None of ours are that bad at the moment, but we have been attacked a couple of times when we got too close, so it pays to stay a healthy distance in case they get the wrong idea.  However, one rooster we had used to play "chicken" with the dog, I could never tell if the rooster was enjoying the game, but Cheryl sure was, they would run at each other and see who turned back first, I think Chez had a few pecks to the nose as a result, but her tail never stopped wagging.

The right corner: Ivan the White Leghorn - check out that beautiful tail!

And in the left corner: Randy the Rhode Is Red - Ivan's arch enemy
Sometimes I wonder if the roosters really are, or in fact even should be, the leaders of the flock.  They seem to be less intelligent than the hens, or possibly they don't see as well, its hard to tell.  They are ALWAYS the last to to figure out how to get out of the cage when I open the door.  After all the hens are out and pecking around in the grass, the rooster is calling out to them and still trying to figure it out, sometimes for several minutes.

We usually keep several roosters for our breeding program, at the moment we have three, each with a small flock of 3-4 hens, and at times we have even more if we're raising cockerels to eat as well.  The roosters have to be kept separate as they have a habit of FIGHTING TO THE DEATH if they get close enough to each other.  Our three roosters are separated by chicken mesh fences, but this doesn't stop them challenging each other.  I'm not sure if they have really short memories, but they seem to be really surprised to see each other each time they are out of their cages.  On an almost daily basis, Randy the Rhode Island Red will spot Ivan the White Leghorn on the other side of the fence and launch an attack.  This involves running at full speed toward the fence.  Anyone who has seen a rooster running at full speed will know how funny this looks, head down, tail up, wings aerodynamically folded down and the lurch from side to side that only happens at high speed.  When they get to the fence they face each other and mirror each other's movements, bobbing up and down, eyes locked, until one of them, usually Ivan, loses interest and wanders away.  Randy then spends several minutes patrolling up and down the fence and calling out to the other rooster (probably calling him chicken), until he realises that he looks like a fool and wanders away too.  If the fence wasn't there, the resulting fight (and we have a had a few when roosters have sneaked around/through the fence) involves much frenzied wing-flapping and kicking.  Once separated, the roosters are often bleeding from their combs, panting heavily, but determined to continue the fight at the first opportunity (did I mention that they're stupid?).

ah ha!  there he is, now if I can just get through this fence we can sort it out once and for all!
I know people that keep multiple roosters in contact with each other, but we have not been able to do that with the Rhode Island Red roosters, they're always too aggressive.  However, when he are raising cockerels to eat, we can keep 6-8 of them in a cage together.  At first we used to let them out to free range, but they started fighting when they were let out.  We found that they didn't fight when they were in close quarters together, only when they were let out, so that was the end of free-ranging the cockerels.

Roosters are well known for their crowing at dawn, however this is a fallacy, our roosters crow all day, replying to each other and to neighbour's roosters, although they are most vocal at dawn.  They also occasionally crow during the night is we have a particularly full moon.  Usually this doesn't affect my sleep, but sometimes we unfortunately position the cages so that they channel the sound towards our bedroom window.   The other problems is the occasions when I forget to lock up the chickens at night time.  We are usually alerted to this mistake by early morning clucking around our window and then the rooster will start crowing.  I don't know if he knows where we are, but he always seems to find that outside our window is a great place to crow.  He also likes the carport, I think he finds the acoustics pleasing.  If its a weekday morning, this results in both of us jumping out of bed and rushing outside to attempt to herd the chickens back to their cage so that they will be safely locked away (from the elderly killer Kelpie dogs) while we're at work.  If you've tried to herd chickens, you will know that they don't herd well, actually we find it ends up being more effective to lure them back to their cage with food, often meat scraps or bread will coax most of them back inside.

The first crows of a young cockerel are quite unnerving.  The first time we raised a clutch of chicks and they were old enough to go outside in a cage, after a few nights I heard the strangest sound, like something was being strangled out in the paddock.  It was ones of those wide-awake - ohmygodwhatwasthat? - moments, but luckily my husband stayed calm and collected, "its just the baby rooster" he mumbled, half asleep.  Over the next few days the cries got louder and more like a proper crow, its interesting now to hear the crows develop, each is slightly different and we can recognise each rooster by his crow.

Roosters have a habit of getting up high.  I don't know if this makes them feel bigger, better able to survey the terrain or they just like climbing, but I will often look out the window to see them crowing from the top of a hay pile, the kitchen steps or anything else they can find.  My husband had a particularly nasty rooster (who was eaten before I had a chance to meet him) that apparently had a personal vendetta against my husband.  On several occasions, my husband would look out the window to find himself face to face with this rooster that had climbed (most like hopping and half-flying) half way up a trestle that my husband was using to paint the house.  Needless to say, this rooster didn't last long!

Any good rooster stories?

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