About a year ago I moved to a property where not only did my 3 chickens become “legal,” I was able to expand in all sorts of ways. I’m thrilled with my mixed flock of 12, who have finally come together as one happy family.
While I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my first eggs from the new pullets, I’m far more excited about the fact that my 5 month old rooster just started crowing a couple of weeks ago. I first heard him one morning when I had to leave early for work. I entered the dark coop to retrieve the bucket of scratch. Without warning he puffed up and let out a feeble crow. Perhaps he was embarrassed when I giggled, because he tried again and again until I got out of his house.
Since then his confidence has increased, as has his volume… as has his aggressiveness. The other morning while I was conducting my daily cleaning of the coop, he snuck up behind me and pecked at my eye. He got as close to my eyeball as one could get without poking a hole in it.
I’ve read a lot about dealing with roosters, and one common theme is not making a habit of having unpleasant interactions with them. Hector’s feathered little body is raging with hormones, and just like with kids – positive reinforcement is so much more effective than negative reinforcement or punishment. Based on that, I chose to not respond to his first attack (aside from the reactive OUCH that flew from my mouth when he got me.)
I have added a couple of routines to my daily chicken chores. I pick him up and carry him around for a few minutes. If he struggles to get away I hold him firmly, then I release him when he stops struggling (like a reward for being good!) While I’m holding him I talk softly, and offer a treat from my hand. I am also much more careful to be conscious of his whereabouts. It seems to bother him when I pick up poop, so I just wait until he walks by if I’m cleaning.
I haven’t seen any true mating attempts yet; just a fair amount of bossy interactions with the hens. The six girls that arrived with him in a box from www.mypetchicken.com and the two chicks that Buffie hatched this summer graciously follow his lead. My original three Buff Orpingtons, one year older than him, are not quite ready for his leadership. Quite honestly, they have him scared silly. He quickly retreats anytime they wander in his direction. He lets them have the coveted top roost. It will be interesting to see how that plays out!
As I’m making friends with Hector, I’m trying to craft the explanation for my young boys as to why he’s “mounting” the girls. We haven’t had any of those talks at our house yet!