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tales from The Easter Egg Chicken Ranch

easter_eggs
For a month or so, three Leghorn hens have been giving us almost two eggs a day while the rest of the 19-bird flock slowly grew to sexual maturity.

Then began a series of mysterious chicken deaths. We asked “experts” and looked a bit online, but what we found didn’t fit right. No physical wounds ruled out predators and fighting among themselves. That this coop is 40 or more years old without ever being heated before, and that the birds haven’t even seen the cold part of winter, and that there are a whole lot smaller birds currently living around here ruled out freezing to death.

Missy suggested our use of poisoned mouse-bait might deliver poison-carrying dead mice to within reach of an occasional bird. Now this passed my smell test… smells right to me. She collected our Dekon from various hiding places unavailable to chickens and the mysterious deaths stopped at 4… now a 15-bird flock.

Maturity is arriving to the rest of the flock… with some bad news. Four of the remaining birds matured as roosters. There was supposed to be “ONE, maybe two” according to the lady we bought the first batch from. In a small coop/yard like ours, one is plenty and two roosters are an absolute maximum. More are going to overwork the hens, fight too much amongst themselves and generally keep the tension level way too high for anybody’s good. We had three Coachin crosses with two being VERY LARGE birds… and obviously dominant. They looked a bit like this pure Coachin below.

caochin-rooster

Four roosters and 11 hens is bad juju that I knew I had to deal with soon. They had definitely established their pecking order and were going to be over-using the hens real soon. We were looking for help or an easy way to transfer them from the coop to the freezer, but didn’t find any. Yesterday the sweet little gray hen was hiding in a corner acting beat up. She spent the night outside – alone – hiding against the wall and showed no signs of moving anytime soon. Time to deal with it.

With highs of 30 predicted for the week (our weekend), I vetoed the proper killing, plucking and cleaning process… icky, cold, time-consuming … did I mention icky? Nah, I’ll buy a five pound bag of frozen factory-farm chicken breasts and compost three roosters. Out comes Missy’s Mossberg. I’m really good with that little 20 gauge … popping clay pigeons on the hillside with rapid regularity … 9 for 10 at any practical range in real short order. A little quick work before breakfast and remaining birds will have a much better day than they have been having for the last week or two.

With 5 rounds of bird shot I strolled confidently, cockily, jauntily out to the coop. I opened the door and encouraged them to go outside to scratch around. What the heck, a head shot will leave the meat in case Missy or I get inspired. The smaller of the 3 Coachin crosses presents an easy target less than 10 feet away. BOOM. Scared him good. He ran back into the coop and stayed there. HUH??? Cocky no more, the two BIG roosters went down quickly with BOOM – BOOM body shots.

Now I’m left with the small black rooster I plan on keeping and the small Coachin cross that I figure to be excess… and two rounds left in the 5-round Mossberg magazine. No point in carrying extra cuz I only need 3 for for 3 roosters, eh?

Okay, come on out. It’s really nice out there. He finally does. I get a shot clear of the hens at 10-15 feet. Easy. BOOM. He’s running (outrunning it???) BOOM He jumps (over it???). Then he runs back inside the coop while I ponder the situation.

Body armor on a rooster? I dunno. Haven’t heard of it, but the other answers don’t work. Okay, maybe he’s charmed somehow. Back to the house for five more rounds in the magazine. That ought to do it no matter how crooked this gun is shooting this morning. Back out to have another conversation with The Charmed One.

I watch a bit. There is a calm in the flock that wasn’t there before. The two remaining roosters have their own followings in different areas of the yard. The Charmed One doesn’t appear to have a scratch on him. I suppose he’s not eating all that much. Well heck, if I didn’t already give him terminal lead poisoning, I suppose I can just skip the rest of this whole flock thinning thing until the need becomes obvious.

I walk back to the house thinking “The Charmed One” a bit cumbersome for names, but “Lucky” works just fine…
and the black rooster …. umm …. uh …. Ah! “Vader”.