Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Lamenting the death of Jack Sparrow

There are certain events that occur in a lifetime that mark the amazing journey. Recalling our homestead journey, I would probably note growing tomatoes in our tiny Baltimore townhouse plot, the tilling of our first "real" garden, making jam from our own strawberries, enough tomatoes to can, acquiring Bruce and Betty — our first bantam chickens, and raising our first flock of meat chickens as important events. And we now have a new experience to add: culling the flock. Ok, doesn't sound too traumatic or even dramatic, does it? But it has made me feel like a "real" homesteader.

Last spring we purchased a few new chickens for egg production. I also ordered a rooster so we could attempt hatching our own birds. To ensure that we would have a rooster reach maturity, I ordered an extra. Murray McMurray also enclosed an extra chick for added warmth AND a free exotic chick (a black polish crested), both of whom are roosters. Yikes! Four roosters, 7 hens. Not a good ratio. But, I decided to keep them all for the time being, and see how it fared.

One of the roosters we separated out to preside over our wandering flock — our old ladies that have free roam of our property. The other three remained penned in a pasture area, along with 4 hens and the pygmy goats.
Jack Sparrow, an Americauna

Rooster to rooster relationships were just fine, not so much man and rooster. Lovely, spunky Jack Sparrow took his kingship mighty seriously, and the Boy was the first to feel his wrath. How's that for dramatic? Boy was, actually, the first to experience Jack's protective nature — vigorous flapping of wings, pecking at feet (especially those clad in bright blue Crocs), and butting up against his lower legs.  I explained to the Boy that the rooster was just doing his job, that he saw us as a threat. We must be cautious, but patient, and fix the issue.

I've heard of two different approaches to this problem. Well, three, but we'll get to that one in a minute. There's the "I'm not a threat, see I bring gifts of food." approach, getting Mr. Rooster to eat treats from the hand. He eventually learns human = food not threat. Then there's 'the carry a big stick (or a watering hose) "I'm the boss" ' approach. Which basically proves that you are bigger and badder than the rooster, so he backs down. Initially, we opted for the first approach. And it really worked — for me. He trusted me, would come running for treats when he saw me enter his domain. He let me gather the eggs with no problems. But, Jack Sparrow was not going to be fooled by the Boy and Husband. His attacks became a bit more fervent, even when they moved into "I'm the Boss" mode.  When Jack began flying into their faces I knew we needed a new plan, the third option, culling the bird.

I tried to give him away, but the only taker was a family with small kids. Not a good fit, especially if they were male (and/or wore crocs.) So, as a last resort, we took him to one of Husband's coworkers who had no issue with eating him. And I learned the lesson that little Fern resisted in Charlotte's Web. When raising animals on a homestead (as producers, not pets) sometimes the flock (or herd) must be culled.

A young, windblown Jack

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