Continued from Part 1…..
I noticed the group of older birds were flapping there wings a bit haphazardly and jumping about between the rose bushes. Initially, based on where they were I assumed they had gotten into the active yellow jacket nest we had noticed earlier in the week. Since I noticed the chicks weren’t with them, I went to go check and make sure they were still safe which I had been doing about every hour all day like a nervous nellie.
While I was checking the chicks, which were fine, Shaun began yelling to me…”Babe! Come over here! They’re fighting!” At first I was like whatever roosters fight, they are just establishing the pecking order, but then we realized it was beyond that point and it wasn’t going to stop. The big black rooster and the red rooster were going at it, biting each other and scratching at each other with their talons, wings and feathers flying everywhere. Later when telling the story I joked it was so terrible we could have charged tickets.
Once we realized it wasn’t going to stop, we tried to separate them, hoping they would calm down and get it out of their system. They were impossible to catch and even when we got them apart they were chasing each other across the property and crowing their battle cry back and forth. This back and forth chasing scenario went on for a while, I’m sure it would have been quite hilarious if you were a bystander, however for us it was getting quite frustrating. We didn’t know what to do with them, they just wouldn’t quit.
I hadn’t read much about roosters fighting, but I did remember reading that at times they will fight to the death. We didn’t want this to happen. At one point, as we were trying to corner them in the woods, the big black rooster had the red one pinned against the bottom of a tree trunk, I was worried this might be the end. Shaun was able to scoop up the red one before any major damage was done. Relief at last! We placed him in the dog pen, segregated from the others with his own food and water and debated about what to do. While we stood there talking, trying to come up with a plan, the big big black rooster begins charging across the property towards the dog pen and crowing as loud as he can. The red rooster crows back and they literally start going at it again through the chain-link fence.
Luckily, this time we were able to make short work of grabbing the big black one and put him in time out under our back deck (again with his own food and water) where he would be segregated and wouldn’t be able to get out. So that’s where they stayed the rest of the day, the red one surrounded by an 8 foot dog fence in the back pasture and the big black one sulking under the deck. They continued to crow back and forth all day, almost as if they were saying “You can’t get me” or “I’m gonna get you.” It was thoroughly obnoxious.
Shaun and I talked, we knew one of the roosters was going to have to go, but which one? We went back and forth, conflicted about it because in most respects they were equally matched. The red one is so pretty and yet the big black one at times did seem more dominant and had good protector instincts, which was important for watching over the flock. It was getting late and we were having friends over for dinner, so we decided to keep the black one since he seemed like he would have been the one to win the fight if Shaun hadn’t rescued the red one from the tree.
I was sad, not having prepared myself for killing one of the chickens so soon. I had seen chicken processing before, but never done it myself. My nurse instincts kicked in and I convinced Shaun to at least let me tend to their battle wounds. We removed the big black one from under the deck and I coated his bleeding comb and scratched legs with bacitracin, not really knowing if it worked on chickens but I figured it wouldn’t hurt. We noticed one of his ears (I’m sure there is a fancy chicken name for them but I don’t know what it is) had been partially ripped off. It was obvious that the red rooster had put up a good fight. We tentatively placed him back with the other chickens in the tractor.
The red rooster was in surprisingly better shape than the big black one and I only gave him a few dabs of ointment. We decided to leave him in the dog pen for the night and do the deed in the morning. The pen is about a 6ft x 6ft square with 8ft in height and an open top. The previous owners had left it on the property (we don’t have a dog yet). We had used it previously on the first day we had the chickens, when we were still making some last minute adjustments to the chicken tractor.
Evening arrived and our friends came over for dinner. We toured the property with them, as it was their first visit to our new house and updated them on the rooster drama. Things appeared to be settled when we walked around and everyone was in their designated area. Later that night after the sun went down, we were sitting the the living room with our friends. My friend asks me about free-ranging the chickens and I said I had mixed feelings about it after today because I don’t know what set them off and that we always close them up in the tractor at night for safety. He then informs me that there was one sitting on the porch and he could see it through the window from where he was sitting. I laughed in disbelief and thought he was joking, but he was like “no really, he is right there…”
I opened the front door and there was the red rooster, looking up at me with puppy-dog eyes! He was perfectly calm as and acting as if this was where he sleeps every night. As he perched on the iron gate of our front porch I couldn’t help but feel a tug at my heartstrings. I said to Shaun, “He’s trying to tell us something, he doesn’t want to die, he promises he will behave from now on.” I took it as a sign, but Shaun was harder to convince. I argued he could have gone anywhere, he could have flown into the trees or the neighbors house, but he didn’t, he came to our front door. We agreed to sleep on it.
The red rooster slept on the front porch all night, perfectly content. I woke up early to see if he was still there and he was, even happy for me to pet him like a cat. So Shaun left the decision up to me and I gave in and wanted to red one to live. The big black rooster became dinner in the crockpot. We we were still conflicted for a while and felt bad when the red rooster continued to crow the next day with no return call. However, approximately a month has gone by and we are happy with our decision. The red rooster is a good protector and always has a watchful eye on the skies, he calls over his lady hens when he finds a yummy treat to share with them and keeps everyone in line.
After the drama I was nervous about letting them out to free-range again, but they have been doing fine in and out of the chicken tractor. The red rooster and his ladies have a cute little morning routine where they come up to the house and snack on some sunflower sprouts before venturing out or heading back down to the field. At this point they have established their pecking order and the little black rooster seems to be getting along fine with the red rooster.