Cromwell, our resident rooster, had a Father’s Day gift that has the chicken yard all aflutter. When his significant other, Miss Betty White, went broody and spent her days sitting in their little house we assumed she was just tired of his attentions and wanted some peace and quiet. And who could blame her?
We returned from a trip to our cabin at Red Feather to discover Betty White had a surprise. Joyce, our caregiver, had to go to great lengths to prevent Cromwell from any rooster-like behavior and interference with the new brood that had arrived unexpectedly. She nailed up a piece of screen to keep Betty White and her new babies out of harm’s way until we returned to figure out what to do next.
I had acquired 11 baby chicks of various breeds and colors in the spring from the feed store, and the addition of these six little cuties was going to be interesting, to say the least. Betty White and her chicks would have to move to the brooder house where the older chicks were residing, which meant they too had to move . . . . . somewhere? I had not planned to move them into the larger chicken house until autumn when they would begin to lay eggs. Cromwell of course would have to stay put and remain lord over his manor, without his consort Betty White and her progeny.
Moving day was fraught with peril. I had to first catch the pullets one by one and hand them off to hubby and grandson Seamus to be hauled to “the big house.” The first one went pretty easy, and then chaos erupted. Catching eleven very lively young chickens is not something I would recommend. After the dust had settled and all eleven had been transported, I cleaned out the brooder house to prepare for the new occupants.
Cromwell came next. I planned to lure him into the neighboring goose pen and lock him in their shed so that I could move Betty White and her chicks. Cromwell by this time is very excited and defensive. The squawking of the young chickens being torn from their lair next door was enough to get his adrenaline going. Before I knew it, he had me trapped between the propane tank and the fence. To describe the skirmish that went on would be believable only to those who have owned a rooster. It astonished our grandson, who hasn’t been able to speak about it since. I finally recovered my wits, and the big stick I carry when dealing with Cromwell, and got him under control and relocated.
It would seem that dealing with a rooster would be the most formidable of tasks in this whole operation, but have you ever dealt with a mother hen with a new batch of baby chicks? I pulled off the slats and screen covering the doorway and tried to lure her out. No way. Her feathers were bristled and she was making a strange, growling noise as she darted about hiding her chicks. She pecked at me when I tried to steer her out the door. Finally, there was nothing else to do but go in and grab her. Out came a bundle of shrieking, biting, clawing chicken and the feathers flew. I had only one leg which allowed her to go into every contortion imaginable, twisting and flopping and flying at me. I threw her into the brooder house and closed the door as she hurled herself against it.
I retrieved three chicks in the first swoop. Fortunately, they were huddled in the corner completely traumatized. They are lightning fast even at two days old, and if they escaped out into the pen I would never catch them! The next three were still huddled and easy to catch. Opening the door to the brooder house meant dealing with Betty White again, and I made fast work of tossing her babies in and shutting the door quickly as she raged against it.
Meanwhile, life in “the big house” was a question mark. I had no idea whether the older hens would accept this invasion of eleven young pullets who were not yet old enough and big enough to defend themselves very well. I was braced for the worst. Chickens have a pecking order which is physical as well as literal.
Later that evening I went to check on the pullets, and they were already up on the big roost. No integration with the older hens had occurred, and likely wouldn’t, but they seemed to get into the stride of things right off. They were settled in for the night.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the roost, the older hens were very unsettled. Some were curious, some turned their backs on the newcomers, some were wandering around as if they couldn’t make up their minds to go to bed for the night. Ah well, they too were young once and had to make their way with the older hens who reigned in “the big house.”
Soooooooo, aren’t all chicken eggs the same? I mean, do some hatch and other get eaten as omelettes? How did this happen, wonders the city girl who lacks full knowledge of the birds and the bees? Did Betty White suddenly lay 11 eggs while you were gone, sit on them for a few days and then, viola, chicks?
Betty White hatched six fertile eggs, compliments of Cromwell. Ahem, birds and bees indeed!