I must admit that it ruffled my feathers just a bit when I discovered, back in early December, that my mother-in-law had accepted another rooster from a lady down the road from us. I have disagreed with my mother-in-law for years regarding her idea that eggs need to be fertilized in order to provide the healthiest eggs for eating. On top of this, she seems to believe the more roosters one has, the higher the percentage of fertilized eggs one will get. As a result, I have witnessed some brutal scenes in the chicken yard because of an unnecessarily high rooster-to-hen ratio. And it had only been late this fall that we were finally down to just the kind, old rooster, Earl – after a dog attacked and killed the young, exuberant rooster who kept all the hens bare-backed and had nearly killed Earl on one occasion. So, naturally, I expected things to get ugly again with the addition of yet another young rooster to the flock.
With the young rooster falling victim to the dog attack, the flock of chickens numbered around twenty-five, counting old Earl. For that size flock, one rooster is sufficient. A good rooster is good to have around for many reasons. They act as a lookout, warning and protecting the girls in case a predator appears. They scout out places for food and call the hens over, encouraging them to eat. A good rooster won’t eat what food he has discovered. He will continue looking for vittles for his ladies, and keep scouting for food until the hens are satisfied. Not all roosters are good ones. Some harass the hens by chasing them and continually raping them. Roosters with these characteristics should be culled from the flock. They are actually bad for egg production, as their constant harassment keeps the hens upset.
One afternoon recently, I saw some kind of medium-sized dog or other mammal moving swiftly through the neighbor’s backyard. It appeared to be carrying something in its mouth, but I could not make out what it was from where I was standing. Quite quickly, it moved down the embankment and disappeared to the west. At the moment, I did not have time to investigate it further, and promptly forgot about it until later when I stepped out on the back porch to check for Punkin or Gambini. There, I noticed the same animal rustling around in the leaves below the slope on the neighbors side of the fence, so I ran back inside for the camera. Through my zoom lens I saw a beautiful red fox, and could tell it was eating something, but I could not make out what its victim was. But as the fox lifted its head, I saw feathers of a very familiar pattern and coloring. It was now apparent the fox’s meal was one of our Barred Rock chickens.
With camera in tow, I moved slowly down the porch steps, being careful to stay hidden behind the pool fence so that my subject did not spot me as I inched towards the slope. Snapping photographs along the way, I realized now that this fox had somehow captured one of mom’s chickens. As I attempted to ease further down the slope, the fox caught sight of me and quickly ran away, leaving the remainder of its chicken dinner behind. So, with the fox gone, I walked on down to the neighbor’s fence to get a better look at the fallen chicken. The victim was headless but, by the looks of the legs, body size, and light shade of feathers, appeared to be the younger rooster. If this was the case, I thought, I was not going to be all that upset about the fox having such a fine chicken dinner.
Then last night, FD spotted two red foxes nibbling at some of the fruity-smelling deer feed in the feeders below the slope. We had been seeing one fox recently, either trotting through the woods or drinking from the water tub, but now we knew there were two in the neighborhood. One appeared to be an old fox with lighter colored hair and a mostly white face. The other was a darker reddish-orange tone with really dark, black socks and feet. Since daylight was fading fast and it was very cold outside, I knew any photographs I could manage would likely be blurry, but I still had to rush in for my camera to try to capture a few images of these beauties. I stepped out onto the back porch hoping that Punkin and Mr. Gambini, our orphaned squirrels, were safe in their house in the big squirrel cage, and not out scampering around in the woods near the feeders.
After preparing lunch today, I took the vegetable discards and scraps out to the chickens. For a few minutes, I stood around and observed the flock as they pecked and scratched at what I had tossed over the fence to them. Much to my dismay, I realized I could count four young roosters roaming around in the chicken pen. I am guessing these new fellas are the juvenile chicks that my mother-in-law hatched last fall. For what ever reason, most of the chicks she raises from her own stock turn out to be roosters.
There is not much for me to do about my mother-in-law’s animal husbandry practices. We have argued it over the years but, ultimately, they are her chickens to raise as she wishes, and her responsibility. But the red fox’s recent chicken dinner did give me an idea! If we can convince FD’s mother to allow us to cull a few of these new, young roosters, she can have a few nice chicken dinners for herself… and maybe the girls will provide us a bounty of eggs in return for some peace and quiet!
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…