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He's Alive!: A Rooster Survives Newbie Caregiver

Updated on February 23, 2013

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.

One-day old chicks.  At this stage they don't take up much room.
One-day old chicks. At this stage they don't take up much room. | Source

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.

Nov 2011.  Roosters sneaking out of chicken's coop side.
Nov 2011. Roosters sneaking out of chicken's coop side. | Source

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.

Phyllis Diller experiencing first snow Nov 2011.
Phyllis Diller experiencing first snow Nov 2011. | Source

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.

Snowball the rooster lived many a nights on the girls' side of the coop.
Snowball the rooster lived many a nights on the girls' side of the coop. | Source

Birds' Songs

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.

Pecker plays chicken with Lobo.
Pecker plays chicken with Lobo. | Source

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.

The Fainter

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.

Scotta poses for picture.
Scotta poses for picture. | Source
Corn Flakes the fainting rooster.
Corn Flakes the fainting rooster. | Source

Have you ever been kissed by a chicken?

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    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      Yarrow doesn't die in the winter. If you can identify it ( it grows wild throughout the USA. Just make sure the area has not been sprayed with pesticides before! By this time the flowers are brown and some branches which grow from the root remain green. The entire plant, leaves, flowers and root are medicinal used as an antibiotic for animals and people.

    • funnyfarm profile image

      funnyfarm 6 years ago from Arkansas

      Where do you get yarrow tea? It's getting so cold here, I think I might try as a preventative. What do you think?

    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      Howdy, right back at ya and your family, Kenneth! What a wonderful invite! A day in the hubworld of Kenneth Avery. Sure, I'll follow you. I enjoyed your hub on the mule and your humor is exquisite.

      I never knew chickens could be such good pets. They clean-up all the kitchen scraps and nasty spiders in the basement. And they love affection.

      Why can't people... have chickens?

      God bless you, Kenneth.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Agnes, on January 12! How are you today? How are the chickens doing? Im serious. I love chickens. NOT to eat as much as I do for pets. My grandchildren, ages 11, 8 and 5, have never seen a LIVE chicken...poor deprived kids...but only KFC, hate that name. I was checking in to see how you were doing. And are you still churning out your great hubs?

      I wanted to INVITE YOU TO CHECK MY HUBS IF YOU WANTED A GOOD LAUGH AND HOPEFULLY, I WOULD APPRECIATE YOU FOLLOWING ME. That would be, as teens used to say, 'da bomb,' Have a wonderful day. With no 'fowl-up's' I just had to say that.

      Your friend, KENNETH

    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      You can also try yarrow tea if you can't have access to antibiotics. I gave my birds yarrow their first five weeks instead of water. I only lost three to temperature change and injury-by-flock. Any time I hear a funny sneeze I change their water for yarrow tea and... sniffles gone!

      Great to have another chicken enthusiast in HP.

    • funnyfarm profile image

      funnyfarm 6 years ago from Arkansas

      Thanks for the hub. I didn't know about the peroxide. Since I'm constantly watching for signs of illness this is really helpful. I get the naming thing. I only have hens so I don't have to think about eating them and they all have names.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      You are welcome, Agnes. It was great to read such a lively and interesting story. Keep 'em coming and have a Merry Christmas. And sorry, I do not favor Tom Hanks in the Polar Express. Maybe the hobo on top of the train a little, but not Tom. Have a great day.

    • profile image

      Cousin Fudd 6 years ago

      We had chickens when I was a boy. Great hub.

    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      Thanks for the vote up, Kenneth. Great to hear from you!

      Our lives ARE upside down since the fowl decision of getting chickens, but I wouldn't change it for anything.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Agnes, just had to check out this hub. Voted UP and away. Loved every word. And your presentation was spot-on. Very informative, humorous, and in-depth. I raised a few "pet" chickens in 1971...fed and watered them. Tended to them. And my mom made me sell them to a neighbor lady. I made $2.98. In that day, this WAS money. Thanks for a delightful hub.

    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 6 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      Becky, the info is very much appreciated. Six roosters are scheduled to be sacrificed this week. We're going to see if the remaining six don't kill each other this winter.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      One thing you need to learn right now, Don't name anything that you are going to want to eat. Old farmer's axiom. Once they are named, you can't eat them. The roosters should be culled in the fall after they hatch. Leave one if you want more. That will also quiet the place down a bit. They are noisy creatures. Use soapy, hot water to pluck them and soak them down. That make it easier to get the feathers out.