I recently wrote about one of my hens — Mrs. Beasley — who was beginning to crow. Over the ensuing weeks, I came to realize that Mrs. Beasley is actually Mr. Beasley, and having two roosters was creating a problem for our small laying flock.
Our hatchery order always includes a free rooster — this year, he’s a Polish named Albert. However, Mr. Beasley was obviously mistaken for a hen when they were sexing the chicks at the hatchery and is the same breed as the rest of our hens: an Araucana/Ameraucana, a breed that typically lays colored eggs. Mr. Beasley is quite a bit bigger than Albert, and in chickens, bigger generally means higher in the pecking order — and that had become a danger for Albert, who was being picked on terribly by the much larger Mr. Beasley.
I’ve tried for the past couple of weeks to rehome one or the other of the roosters. I’ve honestly asked pretty much anyone who would listen to the story, figuring that if I looked long enough, somebody would take a free rooster for their flock. I just couldn’t wrap my head around sending one of them to the stew pot — not unless they became mean. Unfortunately, even though I asked at least a dozen people with chickens, I wasn’t finding anyone in the least bit interested in having a rooster come to join their flock!
I am nothing if not determined, however, and so my approach did not waver: I asked pretty much anyone who has chickens whether they want a free rooster. It doesn’t matter where I meet them: at the hospital, in a restaurant, or in the grocery store — if we start talking chickens, I ask them if they would like their choice of two roosters. It has kept my hope alive for these guys!
Well, it finally happened — and very close to home! I happened to be over at my neighbor Hilda’s house delivering a fresh raspberry pie when our conversation turned to her new-this-year chicken flock. They had gotten a group of twenty-four Rhode Island Red chicks, all hens, at one of the local farm stores this past spring. I, of course, asked whether they ever thought about adding a rooster to their group, and, believe it or not, they were open to the thought! I cannot convey to you the excitement I felt! Honestly, it was funny even to me how happy I was to finally find a home for one of our roosters!
After a bit of discussion about our two men-of-the-coop, I went to look at her flock. Rhode Island Red hens are fairly large, bigger than my Aracauna/Americauna girls. As a result, we decided to move Mr. Beasley, the larger of my two roosters, into her flock. The question was a matter of exactly when to do it.
Since the light was fading by the time I got home, Rick and I decided to move him immediately. Because none of my chickens are very tame yet, we knew it would be much easier to catch Mr. Beasley after dusk, so the timing was perfect. You see, chickens are very predictable: when darkness falls, they immediately find a roosting spot and fall asleep — and they are sound sleepers! We knew that when it got dark enough, we would be able to sneak into the hen house and simply pluck him off the roost. As long as we could figure out which one he was in the dark!
We waited about ten minutes to let it get dark enough in the coop before we made a move. When we were fairly sure the chickens would be sleeping, Rick moved around to the front of the coop and held the doors closed, in case they all awoke and began to run. We needn’t have worried, however. I simply slipped into the coop, looking for the darkest chicken on the roost. Moving slowly so as not to awaken or scare any of the sleeping birds, I placed my hands on either side of Mr. Beasley, who slept quietly at the end of the closet-rod roost. None of the chickens suspected what was to happen.
When I actually grabbed him, he gave one quiet squawk and then settled comfortably into my grasp. That is another thing I’ve learned about chickens over the years: if you hold them firmly, so that they know they can’t get away, they settle down and don’t even try to escape. This behavior is actually very much like sheep — your success in holding them is is linked to your ability to convey that there is no choice but to settle in until released!
We plopped Mr. Beasley into a box just his size and drove him over to his new flock. When we released him among his new girls, he was obviously pleased. He seemed perfectly happy to roost among this new flock, even though he could have easily flown out of the coop and away. Instead he settled right in as Hilda and I watched.
I’m sure that in the coming weeks and months I will hear more about Mr. Beasley and his new flock. For now, however, I’m so incredibly relieved that we no longer have two roosters vying for control of our hen flock. Albert can now live in peace among our hens, knowing that he is the one and only for his girls — and crowing loudly every morning to let everyone else know!