Trouble in the henhouse

Trying to keep a flock of chickens has been a bit of a challenge this year. Several years ago, raccoons decimated our flock while we were on vacation, and rather than replace them at that time (and lose them to the raccoons again), we decided to wait until our raccoon population was more under control. We got our first shipment of chicks in April, and by the time they were a couple of months old and living out in the newly cleaned coop, they totally disappeared. Which wild creature had eaten them or where they had gone was a mystery that I blogged about on May 13th.

We ordered a second batch of 15 chicks, which arrived in June. They were eventually housed in our newly fortified coop and chicken yard, surrounded by tall cyclone fencing topped by two electrified wires. We were determined that these chicks would survive whatever fate had come to the previous flocks. This second group has grown and done quite well, and they’re now looking very much like adult chickens. All of their fluffy chick feathers have been replaced by adult feathers, and once this happened, it was not hard to pick out the rooster. All of the hens are Auracanas or Americanas, and the free rooster was the hatchery’s choice; we obviously got a Polish, as he has quite a head full of feathers!

Some of our hens have been named - now creating a bit of confusion about chicken formerly known as Mrs. Beasley!

Some of our hens have been named – now creating a bit of confusion about the chicken formerly known as Mrs. Beasley!

As they began to attain their adult feathers, I slowly began to be able to tell them apart. As little chicks, they all looked the same; but for many of them, the adult plumage is quite distinct. The rooster became known as Albert, since he had that Albert Einstein look with all those head feathers! The palest hen, a light tan, became Sylvia — and so on, as personalities and coloring began to differentiate them. The darkest and biggest hen became Mrs. Beasley, who loves to race for the too-ripe or bug-eaten raspberries I toss in as I pick each day. There are still several hens without names, but it’s a work in progress.

Early last week, Rick informed me that little Albert was “no longer a chick” — he had begun to crow! When Rick left for work each day last week, he could hear our little rooster crowing in the chicken yard. Even though I tried to catch him in the act, I never seemed to be in the right place. That is, not until yesterday. I had brought a small pie pumpkin for the chickens to enjoy and was offering it to the flock when I suddenly heard a rooster crowing. I quickly searched the group for Albert, and what a surprise I uncovered!

Albert (with the long feathers on his head) is looking a bit hen-pecked recently.

Albert (with the long feathers on his head) is looking a bit hen-pecked recently and not yet crowing.

All of that crowing has not been coming from our rooster, Albert! It’s been produced by big, dark Mrs. Beasley! So now the question is whether Mrs. Beasley is actually a Mrs.,  or whether there has been a terrible mistake and there is, in fact, a Mr. Beasley living within our chicken flock!

From what I have read online, hens can crow on occasion. This has me wondering, because Mr./Mrs. Beasley has many such occasions in any given 24 hours. He/she is not shy about letting loose and announcing his/her presence. Could it be that we were mistakenly sent two roosters? Or do we have a hen who is so dominant that she is crowing long before our poor little Albert has figured out how?

Besides that, at least one member of the flock is picking on Albert, and he is losing feathers from the top of his head! He has a “hairline” that is receding — from the back! I suspect this, too, is the result of the Beasley chicken, but I can’t be sure. Until I catch them in the act, it’s all a puzzle.

The Beasley chicken is once again in the back in this photo - perhaps you can get a better look at him/her from this pic!

The Beasley chicken is once again in the back in this photo – perhaps you can get a better look at him/her from this pic!

I suspect that eventually the rooster(s) will develop longer arching tail feathers and spurs that will set them apart. Until that time, I have one rooster for sure, named Albert, and one Beasley chicken who may or may not be a hen. How confusing this has all become! I think I’ll stick to naming the rest of the hens as I wait for things to become more clear.

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  • Erika says:

    Those are beautiful chickens. I can’t really tell from the picture, but does “Mrs Beasley” have a comb developing?

    • Dee says:

      Hi, Erika! It sure kinda looks that way, doesn’t it? I will post a second photo at the end of the blog that I also took of the group – it might give us a better look. I am really starting to think that Mrs. Beasley may actually be Mr. Beasley, and that he began to crow because Albert was getting so much attention as “the rooster” of the flock!

      • Dee says:

        I’ve taken a much closer look at Mr/Mrs Beasley and I am really beginning to think that we are looking at a rooster – not only because of the comb and wattles that seem to be coming in, but also because he has at least one curved tail feather – which is usually a good indicator that more will come in to produce the typical “rooster tail.” The more I look at the Beasley chicken, the more convinced I am that Albert has competition for Rooster of the Roost in Mr Beasley!

  • Bev says:

    I love roosters, but not having the knowledge to raise such, I have several wooden, carved figures. Your Mr/Mrs. Beasley is exceedingly pretty!

    Is it true, do fresh eggs from your own flock taste better than eggs from the grocery store?

    • Dee says:

      Oh, it is definitely true! Not only are they tastier, but they are also a much brighter yellow and hold together much more. I usually warn those people who have never had our eggs before and have only had grocery store eggs. I find that they sometimes think there is “something wrong with them” when they crack the egg and it plops into the bowl or pan in one glob with little of the runny whites you often see in older eggs from the grocery store. Eating truly farm fresh eggs is an entirely different thing than what you find in most stores!

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