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He's Alive!: A Rooster Survives Newbie Caregiver
Humility Mountain, as we call our home, never seemed more active or taught so many lessons. I'll share with you here how our dogs taught us the value of sacrificing a bird's life for the sake of others, how pride was shattered when I thought I knew enough about natural medicine, yet a rooster nearly died in my arms, and a little hen taught me the value of relaxing while working.
The Beginning of an Idea
Five months ago a brood of one-day-old chicks arrived at our house. Never having held a live chicken in my hands I read every book and post in the web I could find. No written or oral knowledge passed from generation to generation could have prepared five adults for these past five months.
Let me clarify, when I say brood, I mean we had no clue how many roosters or hens would come in the mystery pack - or even what breed they all were. The breeder, after all, was experimenting with crosses to get the biggest meat birds possible. After having lost two birds to temperature changes and one by group injury in the first couple of weeks we held on to 25 growing birds.
The only sign of illness that loomed its ugly head was sneezing. At first, one laughs at the funny sound a rooster makes when he sneezes, then, your body freezes in fear thinking the entire brood will die of a virus. I treated their sneezing with yarrow tea in their water and all have remained healthy, thank God.
Phyllis, our Golden Polish hen, is the favorite of the bunch. She has managed a daily ticket in the house. Its a whole entrance process, one the TSA would be proud of. First, her feet are washed and she drinks water. Next, she is frisked under her plumage for parasite check. She then is passed to the living room area and fed un-popped corn. She has a little body, but the strong and repetitive cackle that slowly hammers out in crescendo of such a pretty bird (the beauty question is still out for discussion) reminds one of a jungle movie.
Since Phyllis and her friend Ameraucana Loyey get beaten up by the big roosters the family has pitied them and allowed them roaming benefits in the home. As I write this article Phyllis sits on my lap sleeping on my left arm. Alright, so we spoil them a bit, but its cold and she does warm me up.
Rooster or Chicken?
Their brood's mystery identities began to unravel day by day. At first I thought aggressiveness equaled males as they chest-bopped each other in mid air as basketball players do, but that soon changed when chickens attacked each other as well to settle their reigning order. The following clue came from some birds who crowed. That made it easy enough to identify, but not all crowed. Next, their spur buttons peaked through. By this time - three and a half months - we had half-and-half of gender separation and were dreaming of future egg production: 11 free-range chickens' eggs should make breakfast healthy and cheap. One problem: more "chickens" began to crow! Re-count.
I'd read that roosters crowed at will and not just at daybreak. I now know why no one has roosters in the city. One o'clock in the morning 12 roosters decide it's fun to try out notes. Oh, one o'clock a.m. is not enough? How about at three a.m.? Five a.m.?
Oh, yes, they like to crow throughout the day as well - all day. Every critter in a three -mile radius of our mountain has packed their bags and moved out. Even the bears! Last year at this time the bears had stripped the bark off many trees around our house. Not one tree has been touched this year.
In my family some people work late shifts and sleep in the day. I mean, rest in the day. Well, close their eyes intermittently throughout the day due to the constant chatter among roosters and chickens. As if it wasn't bad enough the birds seem to get bored after a while and head straight for the dogs' runs. Our two German Shepherds have become so nervous with the birds staring them down I now call them German Shedders. They're constantly shedding, running up and down their runs and barking. Oh how I miss silence.
The First Kill
I prepared myself mentally and intellectually for the process of selecting, killing and processing the chickens for food - the main reason why we had bought them! But, after having named nearly all the birds, hand feeding and cuddling them daily the planned day faded in the horizon.
Two weeks ago one of our chickens came too close to the dogs and was instantly killed by a vulcan neck grip from Fido. There were feathers everywhere! And a very proud dog did not wish to release his prize. I managed to get it, but processing our first bird was not easy at all.
In the movies of long ago, when a baby was born some character always ran to boil some water. I felt very much like a Super 8 film was recording this episode where I yelled, "Is there any more boiling water?" Oh, the feathers come off alright - unto your hands, clothes, floor, table... and then they don't come off. Incredibly soft, fluffy feathers that allowed such perfect flight now were a mottled, sticky mess.
Since no one prepared themselves for the chicken's execution there was no team lead to call out steps to take. Instead, five adults, all claiming they knew best passed the chicken around to see who would clean the bird inside out. The surgeon, by profession, was ultimately volunteered. Where to cut, what to pull out and how to do it is way different than any biology lesson or watching a video in You Tube, but again we managed. We bagged it and, I must say, the bird is still at the bottom of the freezer.
- How to Slaughter a Chicken (Part 1) - YouTube
Class on how to slaughter and butcher chickens at Zenger Farm in Portland, Oregon, taught by Camas Davis and Levi Cole. Brought to you by http://extramsg.com
- How to Slaughter a Chicken (Part 2) - YouTube
The second part of the class at Zenger Farm on how to slaughter and butcher a chicken taught by Camas Davis and Levi Cole. Brought to you by http://extramsg.com
Lately I've noticed black spots on the roosters' combs. After googling this and reading forums I found two possible answers: scabs from fights (very possible) or disease. I ventured to try something. Hydrogen peroxide is a great disinfectant, but it also combats mold and fungus. If these were scabs it would help healing, if mold, it would fizzle and turn white.
I caught one of the biggest roosters, Scotta. He easily weighs 10 lbs. and his comb was big enough to clear his eyes in case of splashes. I applied the hydrogen peroxide and noticed how it immediately fizzled. I quickly poured water and saw the black spots recede. Great! Next rooster: Corn Flakes.
This is one of our smaller-sized, flighty roosters that, well, looks like the rooster on the Corn Flakes' box. This time I was not as careful and some hydrogen peroxide dripped into one eye. The bird blinked more than Betty Boop and soon collapsed in my hands. I was sure I'd killed it. I ran to the hose and drenched his eye hoping against all hope. He blinked some and I put him on the ground. He collapsed. What had I done! I picked him up again and poured more water, this time down his throat. His eyes opened and he coughed. He flew away so high a momma hawk would've been proud. The dumb rooster had fainted from the pain. He was alive!
Yes, humility is a valuable and precious thing: the key to view the world in peace.
- Raising BackYard Chickens
How To Raise Chickens, Build chicken coops, Hatch baby chicks. Everything you need to know about raising rural or city chickens in your own backyard.