We were really excited to buy some replacement hens this summer. We thought we had a great situation - healthy looking new chickens and a smooth transition introducing them to the flock.
Then, we had a surprise. Our ten hens turned out to be two hens and eight roosters.
This is pretty embarrassing for someone with an undergraduate degree in agricultural education. Friends, I have taken classes and taught lessons on the anatomy of a rooster versus a hen. This is not tough stuff. It is, however, tough when the birds are young and the comb and wattles aren't obvious and the farmer selling you the birds plucks out the tail feathers. We thought the tail feathers were missing because the birds where hot and stressed in the small cage. In retrospect, I think our birds were selectively plucked to appear like hens. I guess we can give this farmer points for solving a problem. Unfortunately, we inherited his problem. What do to with eight roosters?
We were discussing our options one weekend afternoon while we cleaned up the garden. To add insult to injury, our formidable flock of roosters began a chorus of crowing.
We did some outreach to friends with chickens and discovered someone who was butchering part of his flock and he would help us. My husband had the day off of work and volunteered to see this task through to the end. The alternative of feeding these food eating monsters through the winter seemed really expensive and annoying. And, the crowing! Our neighbors would need a lot of "good will" eggs to forgive all of the crowing.
Please keep in mind that my husband doesn't like to put his hands in dishwater, let alone butcher chickens. He was also going to have to catch all of the roosters early on that Friday morning...and did I mention this was his day off! If he didn't have a lock on husband of the year before, he certainly does now.
He was almost finished catching the birds when the door to the cage flew open and one escaped. At least, he thought it was one, but he wasn't sure. It was dark and cold and he was chasing the bird around the yard. At one point, it escaped to the front of the house and onto the road. He chased it for awhile and saw it last running down the middle of the road towards our neighbor's house. Geez. Eventually, the runaway made it back to the yard.
My husband has a whole adventure story about the actual experience of processing the chickens. The story involves a collapsing cage, runaway birds (again), tackling of runaway birds, and a firearm...all because we were duped by a fellow farmer.
Trust me...I am keeping my eye out for that farmer.