A word about roosters: they are loud. This, we know. And for this reason alone a lot of people don’t want them. They can be hostile with other roosters, don’t like being approached or picked up, and can essentially be feathery little jerks. But there are advantages to having a rooster with your flock; they keep the hens in line, they can fertilize eggs and give you chicks, and they will do whatever they can to protect their family.
When we got El Hefe he was part of a flock belonging to a friend and had recently fathered a whole clutch of male chicks (7 total). Our friend had tried to rehome the cockerels but no one was interested, so one by one the cockerels were processed for food. They did this with an axe on a block of wood, and Hefe heard the whole thing. They decided to also rehome Hefe in favour of the other roosters they had. When we came to pick him up he fought like the dickens because he thought it was his turn on the block. We took him home and introduced him to our hens instead of chopping his head off, and it was pretty obvious that he felt some measure of relief. The first day that Hefe was part of our flock J was doing yard work and needed to chop up some junk wood. With the first axe chop Hefe cried out, wrangled all the hens into a group and ran around frantically in front of them in protection. It was fascinating, and a little sad, to see that he heard the sound of the axe and felt he needed to protect his hens.
This morning El Hefe performed his duties beautifully when the threat to the flock was real. I heard a commotion and ran outside in time to witness our chickens being attacked by a neighbourhood dog. Hefe struggled with the dog while I was able to direct the hens to safety. I then chased the dog away and found Hefe in the grass, but it was too late. I held him while he died, which thankfully was very quick. I am blown away by how seriously a rooster takes his job… he will literally throw himself into the danger to save his hens. The same thing happened to our first rooster, Bubble, after we gave him to a local permaculture farm; a raccoon attacked their coop one day and Bubble saved the flock by fighting the raccoon, a fight that he did not win.
This, clearly, was a terrible start to the day for me. I am home alone while J is in Vancouver for work, so I had to deal with this on my own. I attempted to return all the chickens, along with their new man of the house Pod, back to the coop where they would be safe, but if you’ve ever tried to round up a dozen chickens in the middle of the day you know that they don’t want to go home until it’s bedtime. They all congregated in front of the coop and stayed put so I figured I would check in on them periodically and starting tomorrow they would no longer be allowed to free range until we completed our fencing properly.
I popped out to check on them shortly after lunch and was greeted by the sight of more feathers on the lawn and no chickens anywhere to be seen. I discovered the source of the new feathers pretty quickly; our beautiful silver-laced Wyandotte Edna had been killed at the edge of the yard, this time by what would appear to be predatory birds.
Both birds have been packaged in paper and we will bury them tomorrow when J is home. I was able to locate the rest of the birds, they had all scattered… Fozzy was wandering the neighbour’s yard alone, Brody had flown herself into the safety of the run with the ducks, and Pod was wandering around clearly flabbergasted that he had lost the hens. He’s got a lot of learning to do and will need to do it quickly to keep the hens safe the same way Hefe did. I physically stayed with the chickens until they went into the coop shortly before sunset, Pod lead the way and they all followed. With the loss of Cersei a short while ago, we went from 14 chickens to 11 very quickly. I am completely devastated about what happened today. RIP El Hefe and Edna.