Back in early July we drove out to “The Other Side Of The River” to pick up two Black Copper Marans chicks. At the time, these birds were four and six weeks old, respectively. The lovely person who sold them to us couldn’t definitively sex them, but she had a gut feeling that they were both roosters. The possibility of getting one of each (however remote) was motivating enough, so we made the drive.
Let me back up. New to this whole farming/chicken keeping thing though we may be, we learned very quickly that the Black Copper Marans is a bird worth having. The beauty of the rooster, and to a lesser extent the hen, aside, the eggs are the real draw. All eggs fall somewhere on the Egg Color Chart which starts with #1 eggs (white) all the way to #9 eggs (almost black). Black Copper Marans (BCMs) lay between #5 and #9 and, for this reason, their eggs are highly prized. I have seen a dozen unfertilized BCM eggs sell for $15 and a fertilized half-dozen go for as much as $90!
Our two BCMs joined us in the heat of the summer. They grew quickly and, just as quickly, it was apparent that the two-weeks-older roo was the unrivaled head honcho. He got his beautiful plummage first, he got his crow first, he got his ladies first (IF you catch my drift), and he continues to this day to, quite literally, rule the roost.
The two birds hung out in this large dog crate for a week or so while they feathered and grew. This kept them safe from bullying by the rest of the chickens, but also allowed us to feed them grower food, as opposed to the layer pellets the rest of the flock enjoyed.
Within a very short amount of time, the boys were out and about, always together for the first month or so. Even at this early stage, it was clear that the older roo (Tough Guy) was well on his way to maturity, while our little guy (Junior) was relegated to the role of tag-a-long.
Now, as time went by, Junior seemed to be making his way despite growing daily adversity. Once Tough Guy got his crow and embarked upon his favorite pastime of fertilizing eggs, their once brotherly relationship seemed irreparably broken. Anytime Junior wanted to eat or drink or have a go at one of the ladies, Tough Guy would appear, as if by magic, to prevent him from so doing. We started to worry about Junior (he wasn’t yet crowing, his plummage wasn’t quite as brilliant), but overall he seemed to be holding his own. Because we free-range our birds, we felt that any rivalry would be dispelled simply by their ability to walk away and inhabit other areas of our property. This proved to be the case until about four days ago.
We aren’t sure what happened, but all of a sudden, while Tough Guy strutted around the grounds like he owns the place…
Junior started spending his days hiding alone under the deck of our house.
It’s totally depressing and we’re not sure that it’s a fixable situation. Our kids have started offering up solutions akin to a chicken/rooster dating service and poultry counseling, but we’re pretty sure that this is just one of those hierarchy things that those outside the species just wouldn’t understand.
One of the many joys of chicken keeping is all of the fantastic resources that are available in this day and age. I am confident that without the assistance I’ve found through such resources as BackyardChickens.com and the Mohawk Valley Poultry Swap, I would not have fared half as well as I have thus far. It was obvious to me that these were the places to turn in my hour of need/confusion/desperation.
We posted a note that we needed to “rehome” one of our Black Copper Marans roosters and gave a brief explanation of the current state of exile. Within minutes, I had two chicken lovers having a good-natured “battle” over who could rightfully claim him as her own. Surprisingly, despite the interest, I found that I couldn’t just hand him over to the first person who answered the call. This, I think, is the main thrust of this entry. Regardless of how little I may interact with my roosters personally, I realized that I do know them intimately after all. I watch their behavior everyday and I see their growth and changes. Realizing that Junior might go to a home where other roosters already live filled me with fear and trepidation. What if he’s scared? What if they bully him? What if I’m sending him from a bad situation to an even worse one? And so on.
I find myself, to this moment, conflicted. As I write, Junior sits under the deck, alone and without an immediate promise of a new, friendlier living situation. I find it frustrating in the extreme that there is no way to cross species lines and, say, give him a hug and let him know I’m working on it. I just have to ensure that he gets food and water and is allowed back in the coop come nightfall. Beyond that, it’s not up to me.
So, until next time, please join us in wishing Junior luck that a new, loving home filled with nothing but willing hens comes his way. Soon.