Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sweet boy and the evil twin

As well as our two Buff Orpington flocks, we have three Australorps: the inseparable twins, Gertie and Alice, and a cockerel named Hector. Hector is the youngest of all our birds, and easily the sweetest - and the lowest on the totem pole, at least for now. The other birds boss him around and peck him when they can. Fortunately he has long legs and is really good at running away.

When Kim fills the feeders in the morning she has to distract the rest of the flock with food, then put out a special feeder hidden behind a tree for Hector, because the other birds keep chasing him away from the food. We're both suckers for the underdog, and so we just love Hector.

Because he gets picked on, we decided to give him his own small enclosure in the coop at night. He's a smart boy, and when the doors are opened up at night he marches right in, probably happy to be able to stop running for a few hours. He has his own small roost, and his own food and water dishes. Those hours at night are probably the best of his day.

Until we realized the Australorp twins, next lowest in the pecking order, were being shooed off the roosts at night by the Orpington pullets. So we started putting them in with Hector at night. They made themselves right at home, forcing poor Hector to shuffle down to the other end of the roost. He seemed to make the best of it though, sweet boy that he is.

And then last week our original Orpington cockerel Big Boy started picking on one of the pullets in his little flock when we put them to bed at night - he would cruise the floor underneath the roosts and keep her from jumping up to the roost to settle in. We would have just left them to sort it out, except that she seemed very distressed and we were worried that she might hurt herself flapping around so much in an enclosed space. So what did we do? We bunked her in with Hector and the Hens. Hector didn't complain - he just shuffled down the roost a little bit more.

That Orpington hen must really like her new accommodations and be telling all her friends, because last night when Kim was ushering everyone into the coop a second Orpington hen walked right into Hector's enclosure, made herself at home and refused to leave.

Poor Hector. There's not much more space left for him to shuffle to.

On the other hand, our old favourite Red Toe appears to have been replaced by his evil twin. You may remember that Red Toe was Kim's best friend for a while: he would come running every time she got close to the chicken yard, and hop up into her lap for a pat when she sat down for a session of chicken TV. We named him Red Toe because we had painted one toenail red, so we could be sure to keep him from the slaughterhouse - he was the cockerel we were going to keep.

No more...

Now Red Toe is evil. When we get approach the orchard gate (where the three cockerels headed for the stew pot are now living full-time with the chicken tractor) he still comes running, but now it's to bite us.

He is a nasty boy.


Natalie said...

I feel like I am all caught up on a favorite soap-opera-melodrama!
My boys have noted that I love all the Masterpiece Theater programs, like Jane Austen ones, where the women in period costumes look like ruffled hens!
I can just see the chickens taking all the parts of a Jane Austen novel!

Paula said...

I guess Red Toe is being the big cock and must see you guys as a threat to his empire. When he spurs you the first time, you'll do him in, for sure.

Maybe once everyone has crowded into Hector's house, he'll move back into the big house by himself.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

Hello Miriam, I have so enjoyed this post, and agree that it's kind of like a soap-opera with chickens, and kind of sounds like a house full of kids picking on one another too!! I would tell Red Toe that if he doesn't change his evil ways, he may be put on death-row with the others--Is there a chance that one of them is reformed enough to take his place?

Flartus said...

What makes a chicken turn like that? Dominance issues, I guess?

I may have told you this already, but when I was a kid, taking care of our flock, I'd have to go in and battle the rooster Sam (a buff orp., too) every late spring. He'd get it into his head that he had to put me in my place. Once or twice a year was all it took, just shoving him back repeatedly with a well-protected foot, then he'd accept my place above him.

Maybe you need to do a little boot-scootin' boogie with Red Toe.

Miriam said...

Here's what my darling sister said about Hector:

"There were five in the bed and the new one said move over move over
so they all moved over and Hector fell off...
There were four in the bed and the bossy one said move over move over
so they all moved over and ..."

Ha! Does anyone else remember that camp song?

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