Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that an abundance of roosters goes hand in hand with raising chickens. We already have four adult roosters who are permanent residents on the farm, which is at least two more than we really need, so when four of the seven chicks Violet hatched this spring turned out to be roosters we again found ourselves having way too many. Last summer we resorted to the Coq au Vin method of dealing with our excess roosters, and although it was difficult, we were comfortable with our decision. We were prepared to do the same thing this year, but then fate seemed to smile upon our boys and presented me with another option. I was doing field work outside of Banks one day when I met a farmer who had recently begun farming as a second career and was raising pastured chickens. We chatted for a bit, and I soon discovered that he and I shared many of the same opinions regarding raising healthy, happy animals to provide food for our families. I spent the day working along the stream that bordered his property and admiring the beautiful setting and his happy flock of hens.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I began to put two and two together. Our four teenage roosters were four months old, and they were starting to eat a lot. Sean would be on tour this fall, which would mean that we wouldn’t be able to harvest them until late November, and that would mean that Sean would need to build them their own coop where they could keep dry during the rainy months ahead. These were all manageable things, but I started to wonder if there wasn’t a better solution for all of us. I thought back to the farm I had visited a few days before. There were about 100 young hens free ranging on a very large pasture, and I had only seen one rooster. I wondered if the farm couldn’t use a few more roosters to keep watch over the flock. I called the farmer and reintroduced myself to him and told him that I was looking for a home for some fine young roosters that we had been raising organically on our small farm and would he possibly be interested in giving them a home with his larger flock. He said yes he would be happy to buy all four of them, and I made plans to drop them off later that week.
When we arrived at his farm he had a temporary pen set up where the roosters could be gradually introduced to their new flock, as well as the two livestock guardian dogs on the farm. When introducing new chickens to each other it’s important to keep them separated with a barrier that they can see through so they can get used to each other but that also keeps the existing flock from asserting their dominance over the new chickens (chickens can be pretty merciless when enforcing the pecking order!). The livestock guardian dogs would also need some time to learn that these new roosters were now part of their flock and were to be protected along with the ladies. It’s been a several weeks since we brought the boys to their new home, and by now they should be integrated with their new flock and living the good life with many acres to roam free.