Firstly, this is a one time deal (so if you have a sad story about a chicken who needs rescued don’t tell me).
Secondly, I’m glad we did it (even if I don’t want to do it again).
Just before Christmas our farmer neighbour asked us if we wanted a rooster. I said I didn’t. Then he told us about a friend’s rooster who was going to be killed because he was surplus and not getting on very well with the other (preferred) rooster in their flock of 6 or so chickens.
I didn’t say yes immediately. I worried about disease. I worried about this troublesome rooster not getting on with our lovely hens. I worried about chicks instead of eggs for breakfast and cakes. I worried there would be fights. I worried my very assertive hens would kill him. I worried and worried. I Googled some and found a bit of reassurance (we would still have eggs for breakfast and cakes) and quite a few tips about introducing them to each other. The only certainty was that if he stayed where he was he would die so I finally, with great reluctance, said ok, we’ll take him.
He arrived in the back of a land rover. The farmer neighbour and I had a coffee and a couple of snickerdoodles first. Then we went out to get the rooster and introduce him to the hens. The rooster was not a handsome, proud, cock-a-doodle-do from the rooftops kind of guy. He was little, scruffy, and wild with big black eyes. I sighed. Oh well. He was a rescue rooster after all so it wasn’t about his looks. He was a sort of tortoiseshell colour, quite similar to Minky, our cat-on-a-diet, but a little lighter and more cinnamon. Of course his name then became obvious and he was named after the cookies we love that are covered in cinnamon, Snickerdoodle. And anyway, it sounds a bit like cock-a-doodle so it just worked.
He is all or part Silkie, a type of bantam (small) chicken with super soft, fluffy feathers. Now that he’s had time to grow up a little he has turned into a less scruffy little thing.
I watched Snickerdoodle closely the next few days. I watched the hens watch him. You’ve heard the expression ‘henpecked’? They immediately put him in his place. There was some squawking and flapping about and yet by bedtime he went into the hen house fairly easily. I worried we would go out the next morning and find him dead in the henhouse but he was fine. The chickens all seem to go really quiet and docile in the darkness of their little house.
Over the next few weeks he remained skittish and avoided us when we went near him, and the hens continued to tell him off at every opportunity but his life slowly became easier as they got more used to him.
And now nearly half a season with us and he is finally settling in. This weekend I was in the middle of cooking when my daughter came in the house and started talking about the chickens. I listened with half my attention, nodding and replying sometimes. Then she said “I saw Belle and Snickerdoodle fighting–they looked like they were about to kill each other! And then I realised that what they were doing wasn’t fighting…” Her pause caught my attention and I realised what she had just said. We started to laugh. “So Snickerdoodle and Belle, eh?” I asked. She laughed again and said she thought it would be Roxy if any of them because Roxy is the most tolerant of him and Belle and Coco have been the most bossy.
While digging in the vegetable garden this weekend we watched the chickens and sure enough Snickerdoodle was staying near Belle. And when she went into the hen house to lay he hovered near the door, clucking gently. Later he was standing by himself in the middle of the garden and he let out a weird squawk that turned into a funny call and I suddenly realised he was cock-a-doodle-doing for the first time. He fluffed himself up, shook his head, lifted his shoulders and looked very pleased with himself. Once he caught his breath he did it again, more smoothly this time and we all cheered and told him “well done!” I was especially pleased that it was not particularly loud and that the hen house is far enough from our bedroom windows (and those of our neighbours) that his new-found skill won’t be disturbing us.
Our little rooster is growing up.
And thirdly, the flock he came from has recently, sadly been destroyed by a fox in the early hours one morning so I am pleased Snickerdoodle wasn’t the preferred rooster and that he came to us.
This is my week of gardening posts! I started with a post on the vegetable garden…