Boys Will Be Boys
We’ve had a good run of everyone getting along fairly well here at the farm, but as the old saying goes, nothing good lasts forever. Now that spring is here, love is in the air, along with the hormones that go along with it which always seems to bring out the bad behavior in the boys. The first offender was Ringo the turkey, who has started challenging and attacking my husband Sean, every time he goes into the lower pasture. Of course he’s only going into the pasture to take care of some chore to make things nicer for the turkeys and chickens, but that doesn’t matter to Ringo. Ringo will chase after Sean, walk around him in circles looking for any potential weakness, and vigorously peck anything he can get his beak on. At well over 20 pounds, a tom turkey is nothing to mess around with, they can inflict serious injury if you don’t pay attention. Although being attacked by a turkey is no laughing matter, there is a slightly humorous aspect to the situation which is that all the while the tom turkey is in attack mode, he makes a sound that is referred to as the “fighting purr”. It is a high pitched purr-like call, and the first few times we heard it we thought it was kind of sweet and endearing. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that such a cute sound is not a happy turkey call, but an aggressive turkey call. So now when we hear the fighting purr, we know it will soon be followed by Ringo charging at Sean, who then opens the gate, Ringo charges out in attack mode, and then Sean quickly walks into the pasture while leaving Ringo stranded outside. When the chore in the pasture is done, Sean opens the gate, Ringo charges back in, and Sean walks back out. Problem solved.
The other case of boys behaving badly is not such an easy fix. Ramon, our alpha rooster, has been coexisting with his son Brown Rooster, since last fall. A couple of weeks ago I noticed some occasional sparring between the two, and Ramon started chasing Brown Rooster around the pasture a bit. Then last week I noticed that instead of going into his own small coop at night with his ladies Henny, Penny, and Lil’ Miss, Ramon was spending the night in the big coop with Brown Rooster and Brown’s ladies. For a few nights I went into Brown’s coop, removed Ramon, and closed the automatic chicken door so Ramon couldn’t get back in. After doing this for a few nights with no change in Ramon’s behavior, I soon realized that my attempts at problem solving were not going to have any effect. I decided that the boys would have to work it out for themselves. The sparring and chasing has been gradually escalating, with Ramon maintaining his status as the dominant rooster until this morning when the tide had noticeably turned in Brown Rooster’s favor. Brown Rooster must have gotten tired of taking Ramon’s guff, and he decided not to take it anymore. This morning when I went down to feed everyone, I found Ramon with a blooded comb and an attitude adjustment. Instead of strutting proudly around the pasture, he was hiding underneath the coop. When I called to him to come out, which I did not expect to actually work, to my surprise he came out rather dejectedly as if he was seeking some sympathy. I held him for a minute and inspected him for injuries. When I put him down, he ran right over to the other coop which he quickly crawled under. A few moments later, Brown Rooster ran after him and also crawled under the coop. I called Ramon, and again he came over to me and out from under the coop. By this time I could see what was going on. Brown Rooster, at three years old, had knocked Ramon who is four years old, down a peg in the pecking order. On the one hand it was Karma coming back around on Ramon, who had done the same thing to his coop mate Reuben a year and a half ago. But on the other hand, the rooster pecking order is more vicious than the hen pecking order, and I didn’t want Brown Rooster doing serious injury to Ramon. Aside from the Reuben incident, which you can’t really blame him for, Ramon has been a very good rooster. He is an attentive guard and good provider for his ladies. He is also gentle with the ladies, and I want him to sire some offspring for us this summer.
So what do I do with Brown Rooster? For now he is having a time-out in a separate pen inside the lower pasture, while Ramon regains his confidence and struts around the pasture with the ladies. This may temporarily take Brown Rooster back down a notch, but probably not. I will most likely end up moving Brown Rooster and a few of his girls back to the upper pasture. Our old biddies, Raquel, Rhoda, and Rosie, who are now six years old, will be none too excited to have to live with a rooster again. But Brown Rooster can watch over them and keep an eye out for aerial predators now that we have taken down the net that used to be over the upper pasture. It’s likely that moving Brown Rooster to the upper pasture will bring with it another set of problems. I can easily see Brown Rooster trying to attack and peck Reuben, my special needs rooster, through the fencing of his enclosure. Reuben has been singing his musical crow these last few weeks again, which I take to mean that he is feeling well and enjoying life as much as he can given the cards that he’s been dealt. I don’t want Reuben’s quality of life to be reduced, and I’m sure I will need to make some adjustments to Reuben’s enclosure if I move Brown Rooster to the other side of Reuben’s fence. It can be a lot of work at times, but if I wasn’t trouble-shooting rooster relationships I’d be trying to fix something else. After all, there is certainly never a dull moment at the farm!