The Rooster Dilemma
It’s been three months since we spontaneously agreed to provide a home for six chicks that were hatched out in a friend’s grade school classroom. They are old enough to differentiate the roosters from the ladies, and we now find ourselves with four more roosters on our hands. This of course is in addition to our other new rooster, brown rooster, that Millie hatched out six months ago and our two full grown roosters Rueben and Ramon. Oh, and let’s not forget Lil’ Red Rooster, which brings the grand total up to eight roosters! This is not the first time we’ve found ourselves in the situation of having too many roosters. When we got our first batch of chickens for the farm we ended up with six roosters, which we soon found out was way too many. We rehomed two roosters and lost one to a predator attack. For a while we were down to three roosters, and to be honest that was still one too many.
When we bought the 25 chicks for the farm back in March 2012, a dozen of the chicks we bought were breeds known for their “table” qualities since we wanted to experiment with raising chickens for meat as well as eggs. Two of the meat breeds we bought ended up being among my favorite in terms of personality. These included the Australorps, who were named Squeaky 1 and 2 and Twitchy, and the Dorkings, who became known as the Sweet Peas. The other meat breed in our flock, the Delaware, is a big white chicken that literally looks like dinner running around on big yellow legs, but lucky for these ladies they are prolific layers of extra large eggs, so they have been granted immunity. I did go so far as taking a chicken slaughter class last year at the Linnton Feed & Seed. It was a hard thing to do, really hard, but the instructor was extremely kind and patient and it went about as well as could be expected. Still it was a traumatic experience, and I think I cried and sniffled about half of the drive home. When I got home I cried some more, took a shower, then took a nap. Then I told Sean about the class, and I started to feel a little better. We decided to barbeque the chicken for dinner, and boy was it tasty! Nevertheless, there was no doubt in my mind that I was far too attached to my ladies, and even the roosters, to consider eating any of our first farm chickens.
So now here we are facing the same decision we faced a year ago. We have some young roosters who have been loved and raised with respect and who will soon be 5 months old, the prime time to harvest fryers. It’s a fact of farm life that if a rooster is not needed for flock protection or for procreation, they most often end up on the dinner table. That is the fate of many unwanted roosters that are advertised on Craigslist, and if our roosters are going to be eaten I’d rather know that they came to a swift and humane end by our hand than under unknown circumstances. We’ve lost a few chickens to natural causes over the past year, and we conducted a necropsy on one of our ladies last month to confirm her cause of death was internal laying. We are slowly becoming desensitized to the fact that death is part of life on a farm. That doesn’t mean that the decision that lies before us will be an easy one, but if we can do it, we will be one step closer toward self sufficiency.