Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Conundrum in the Big Hen House

Three years ago in March, we had a spate of young cockerels born. We managed to give away five to a group we met at the feedstore, and they were eaten long ago, we believe. We kept two youngsters, both appeared to be sons of Fred, the Japanese bantam rooster. One, all white, we named Butch, and one, gray and black, we named Studley, because he was...errr.... studly. Both were subservient to their dad Fred, and to big Rambo, the Buff Orpington rooster adopted from Olathe Animal Control (really!) who was our flock leader for so long until his death last year.

Butch and Studley got along fine, and both knew their places in the overall flock. Their father Fred was killed in the dog attack, and eventually, Butch began to go to the horsepen during the day with the big hens, and Rambo, their guardian. If they got too big for their britches, Rambo hip-checked them and set them straight. Two years ago, we had four roosters born who looked amazingly like Fred's grandsons... two of them, One and Two, were white with arching black tails, like their grandpa. Two were black and gray, looking amazingly like ... Studley. As we have two little gray hens (and at the time, had three), we were really not too surprised. We ended up keeping One, Two, Three and Four, and they took their place in the flock, miniatures more like their grandpa than their daddies.

After Rambo died, there was some repositioning of the pecking order, and then Baby Rambo, his last son .. grew and grew and grew. Eventually, he began taking over the flock. The hens, fickle as they are, began to follow him to the pasture as they had his daddy. Yet, every one of the smaller roosters each had a hen or two that clung to him, so the balance worked. Over in the little henyard, we were going through the same thing.... Clucky became the boss, but he has four brothers (Buddy, and three who are unnamed as yet) that MUST be given away this year (writing that down) who are "helping" him take care of their mothers and sisters.

Now, we have found Butch in the feed room of the Big Henhouse. We don't know how, but sometime in the last three weeks, the wire that forms the barrier between the feed room and the living quarters of the big flock has become loose in several places. I began to find hens in the feed room, and couldn't figure out why or how. Then, I began to find Butch. Finally, we noticed that the wire was loose in one area. Butch now stays in the feed room, and yes, he has feed and water... I'm a sap.... but we noticed that he is not going outside, not interacting except when a hen comes through to lay an egg... and is altogether subdued. Keith noticed he had taken a drubbing from Studley one day... and we think he is either injured or depressed. I made sure he was not hurt badly just an hour ago, picked him up and felt him, and made him drink a bit. He will either live or die, it will be up to him. Isolating him in the nursing cage (a rabbit hutch) is not the answer, so I will leave him alone and hope for the best.

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