WARNING: This post contains imagery and references that may not be suitable for children. Reader discretion is advised.
Throughout our years of keeping chickens, we have come up against this issue a few times: what do you do when you have 7 roosters? We always have one rooster with the hens, and therefore we get a few fertilized eggs with a 50% chance that those fertilized eggs will turn in to cocka-doodle-doo roosters. Let me outline the pros and cons of cocks:
-Most of the time they are more attractive than the females as they have colorful feathers and bad ass spurs .
– They provide the key ingredient for a renewable resource: more chicks.
– They are loud. Very loud.
– They exhaust the hens physically, especially when there are 7 of them.
– They cock fight. It is a real and dangerous thing.
Cock fighting seems to be the biggest concern at this point. 6 of the 7 roosters have been sequestered into a stall separate from the rest of the hens, as they have been attacking the females, as well as each other, which in turn affects egg production. Stressed hens = no eggs and no feathers. Some of the hens lost so many feathers that our family friend started knitting them sweaters! Niche market? I think it’s a winner!
Our oldest rooster, who is 8 years old and extremely mild mannered, has been badly wounded by these 6 hooligans. His comb was pecked apart and he was essentially bald on his saddle and back. To preserve his safety, my mother put him and the hen she considered to be his “wife” with the goats and sheep. They seem to be adjusting to their horned cohabitants and they are safe from the wrath of the other roosters, although it is clear that the rooster is still recovering. In an attempt to assert his dominance despite his injured state, the rooster will try to jump on his “wife,” who assumes the appropriate position. I cannot describe to you how sad it is to see a rooster topple off a hen who patiently waits for him to try again, and again…and potentially a third time, before giving up, defeated. So very depressing.
Bottom line, 7 aggressive roosters are a problem. There is the option of selling them, but you would be surprised how few people want roosters. I wonder why…When you are selling livestock you also run the risk of selling your animals to someone who does not treat them correctly, which is unfortunately quite a common occurrence . I may have mentioned that we do not keep our animals for meat production and rarely have to kill them, but this is one of the few situations where we make an exception (I apologize to all of my readers who are vegetarians). Any animals that have to be put down due to illness, old age, or, in this case, the safety of other animals, are treated carefully, respectfully and suffer very little if at all. This is not something that any of us enjoy doing but we would rather know that they are being treated the right way than having someone else cause them pain. Tis’ the way of the farm.
In general, I would consider myself a pretty sensitive person. These kind of choices are ones that are almost impossible for me to make. But when I think about farmers from days gone by, who would not eat if their hens stopped laying, I realize how essential these decisions are to farming. It’s not easy. But isn’t it a far superior way of doing things? Isn’t it better than blindly buying a thing of packaged chicken breasts at a grocery store, knowing that those chickens probably lived their life in a cage, without the luxury of going outside or being close to other chickens? Unless you are researching where your chicken is coming from, and, in detail, how that particular company treats their birds, you cannot know what their lives looked like. Unfortunately, a free-range label means very little nowadays and has become a malleable and subjective term. Sad but true.
When one is eating out, it is hard to determine how the meat you are eating was treated, especially in today’s world. I am not pretending to be perfect by any means. But when given the choice, I would rather support a humane and empathetic way of farming than apathetically supporting a corrupt industry, no matter how uncomfortable it is for me.