We were filled with elation.
After posting ads and pictures on Backyardchickens.com and a “private” Facebook group for all things chicken without success, we’d finally broken down and placed ads on Craigslist. We weren’t sure what kind of response we’d get, but figured we could always vet the responders just as we would through any other forum and, quite honestly, we were running out of ideas. We ran ads on Craigslist for the Hudson Valley, Western Mass, and Albany area and waited to see what came back. Our ad read:
FREE TO GOOD HOME – We are looking for a home for our lovely Black Copper Marans rooster. He has officially been kicked out of the flock by our more dominant BCM roo and now spends his days alone under our deck. It’s making us sad to see him alone and don’t want him to live in fear/being bullied. (yes, I realize I’m anthropomorphizing, but there you have it) He is Bev Davis line and has been raised in an entirely organic, free-range environment. He is a little over seven months old. We are in East Chatham. Please only respond if you are looking for a rooster to breed with a flock of hens (no other roosters). He is not for eating.
Within hours, we’d gotten several responses. Of these, only one was inappropriately hostile and pedantic. In it, the writer warned us of the dangers of giving animals away for free and suggested we seek an animal shelter, rather than an unknown domestic situation. We thought that was a great idea and immediately brought Junior to our local No-Kill Rooster Sanctuary where he now lives in joy and harmony with others just like him.
Oh… Wait. That’s not what happened at all.
What really happened was that we did manage to get a few useful responses and one, in particular, made us think we had hit the poultry jackpot. The man who responded is in his mid-60s. He’s a retired police officer with 15 acres on which he free-ranges his five hens. The birds are a relatively new hobby for him and he adores them. I called him that night and we spent close to 40 minutes on the phone just talking about chickens and life. He said that his wife thinks him crazy since he has spent almost $1,000 to convert a play house and a dog run into a lavishly upgraded, insulated, heated Chicken Paradise. He has no desire to sell eggs or breed more chickens; he just wants a beautiful rooster to complete his collection. We could not believe our good fortune; it seemed like the perfect fit!
We arranged to meet him in the parking lot of the Renssalaer Aldi since it was a suitable halfway point. (Side note: For some reason, all meetings involving poultry and halfway points occur in parking lots. We have now met near strangers in the parking lots of gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores, all for the purpose of managing our flock. It’s weird.) We caught Junior, which wasn’t as difficult as we’d expected, and put him into a hay-lined dog crate with cups of feed and water.
The only problem was that we did this too early (about two hours before it was time to leave for the meeting) and the rest of the chickens (and Tough Guy, of course) saw this as an opportunity to taunt and harass Junior in his newly-confined state.
Since the weather has been hovering in the single digits, we decided he’d be warmer and happier in the back of the car anyway and moved him there until show time.
He ended up spending the next several hours in the back of our car and then, once the hand-off was made, a few more in the back of his new people’s car. Surprisingly, they didn’t take him straight home. When we called hours later to check on how the integration process was going, they had only just gotten back from running errands and Junior was just then being introduced to his new lady-friends. They said they’d call us in a little bit with a report.
Well. They called.
Junior immediately tried to mate with one of the hens (exactly as he should have), but then one of the hens retaliated by attacking him. Having undoubtedly reached the end of his patience with being the flock patsy, he fought back and, apparently, kept fighting. The poor man hadn’t realized (and we hadn’t thought to suggest it to him) that he needed to have a separate area for the purpose of introducing Junior to his existing flock. It is essential when bringing new chickens into an established flock that there is a period of getting to know one another. Chickens are territorial and they hate change. The only safe way to bring in a newcomer is to do it slowly and in a controlled manner. Sadly, our friend didn’t realize this and, once we explained it to him, admitted that he had no way to separate them. His $1,000 coop only had one room and no way to divide it, even for a short time.
We offered to lend him the dog crate during the acclimation period. We suggested to him that they would be fine together at night (chickens also don’t mind much at bedtime) and that he could separate them each morning until they got used to one another. Sadly, this poor man just wanted a pretty bird and not a disruption to his retired life. He wasn’t prepared to crate-train, and we couldn’t in good conscience unload our issue onto him. Dave headed back to the Aldi parking lot to pick him up.
So, Junior is back home and we are back to square one. He went back into the coop after bedtime, and so far today there have been no issues. We haven’t heard back from the other interested people, so we’re just about out of options. We are going to observe him today and see how it goes. If there is continued alienation and bullying and no word from a possible new home, we are going to have to seriously talk about a humane slaughter. Our daughters are quite upset at this possibility, but we are trying to explain to them that it is far less humane to force an animal to suffer abuse and alienation from its peers than a quick death at the hands of those who love him.