I like fresh eggs. They are one of my fondest childhood memories. My grandmother had Barred Rocks, which are black and white chickens that lay brown eggs. They are large eggs very rich in flavor. So, one of the things I have been looking forward to on the farm is having chickens. We missed “chicken season” last year; yes, there is a chicken season. The hatcheries send baby chicks to the local feed stores starting in about February and run through around the end of April. If you don’t get your chicks then, you have probably missed out on “chicken season”. This year I was very deliberate about checking with the hatcheries and the feed stores on the delivery and the breed of chicks that would be available. I researched what types of chickens I wanted and what breeds play nice with other breeds. I made a list of traits I wanted in a chicken: types of eggs, disposition, color and heritage, heat tolerance, etc. When I had narrowed my list down to the breeds I wanted, I cross-checked it with the breeds that would be available and that is how I came to have three Ameraucanas, two Barred Rocks, two Rhode Island Reds and two Cuckoo Marans.
In addition to being in “chicken season” you also have to get to the feed store before they sell out. The hatchery mails the baby chicks to the feed store and the feed store puts them out. Within a few hours several hundred chicks have been sold, especially the heavy layer breeds like Barred Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. Another important thing to know is whether you are getting sexed chicks or straight run. Sexed chicks are generally sold as pullets, or females that should grow up to be hens. Straight run would include both males and females. That was a particularly important note for me because my hubby very adamantly said no roosters! His stipulation was fine with me because you do not have to have a rooster to have eggs unless you want them to be fertilized so you can have baby chicks. I didn’t particularly want baby chicks beyond my original ones, so we were in good shape. I went to the feed store and brought home my new poultry pullets and set them up in their homemade brooder. A brooder is essentially a temperature-controlled box to keep them warm until they have feathers.
Oh, they were so cute! Who can resist a little fuzzy fur ball with a little tiny “cheep, cheep” sound? I looked at their coloring and their heritage and named them after relatives I don’t see frequently. It was a tribute to my family so the ones who lived far away could be “around the farm” with me. One of the Ameraucanas looked blonde, one looked light brown and one had very striking dark stripes. I named them Laura, Anna and Tammy. The Barred Rocks and the Rhode Island Reds heritage was in the northeast and I have some very special family members in that area so they were named DeeDee, Tina, Neecy and Linda. Finally, my Cuckoo Marans reminded me fondly of two Aunts who make me laugh: Gloria and Dean. So, my little flock was formed. The only thing that remained was to feed and nurture my pullets until they grew into laying hens.
Every week they grew a little more; molting occurred, feathers grew in, and they were looking more like chickens instead of chicks. They moved from their brooder into a nice mobile coop complete with nesting boxes. Each time my husband would look into the coop he would say, “Are you sure they are all hens? No roosters, right?”
“Why, of course they are all hens. Why would you think otherwise?” I replied defensively.
“Well, I’m just saying, if one of them is crowing—-he’s going….into a pot with dumplings,” he replied. “No roosters!”
I looked at my hens and analyzed them against pictures on the Internet. I talked to experienced farmers and had others look at my flock. There was a general consensus that one of the chickens didn’t particularly look or act like the others. Although I had some concerns, I remained convicted to having nine hens.
More weeks went by and more feathers grew in. They all looked beautiful, particularly Tammy. She was stunning. Her colors where bold and her wattle and comb were bright red. She had long, flowing feathers around her neck and she strutted when she walked. Could Tammy really be a rooster? Nah…she’s just a beautiful hen, I told myself and anyone that doubted me. I even talked with Tammy and explained she had to be a hen.
Last week I stepped outside to do my farm rounds. I was checking my shoes before putting them on because that’s what you do in the country. I froze dead in my tracks.
“Er-Er-IRR-ER!” came from the chicken coop. “ERT-ER-IRR!”
“Oh, no,” I thought. “She’s trying to crow. “
I turned and looked into the coop. Tammy was sitting on a roost, chest stuck out and beak wide open singing a morning wake up song.
I called my husband and said, “Honey, you won’t believe this, but I’ve read about it on the Internet–We have a hen that can crow!”
Needless to say Tammy is a rooster. A beautiful picture perfect crowing rooster and I have a problem. My problem is that some times what is said to be true is not true. Sometimes what we want to believe is not real. No matter how much I’ve tried to make Tammy a hen, he is a roo. He has to be true to what he is and I have two choices: I can accept it or I can ignore reality. Honestly, I try to live in reality, so I have eight lovely hens and a rooster.
Juliet expressed it best in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”,
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”
In my case, that which we call a rooster by any other name would still crow. Part of maturity of any kind is learning acceptance in spite of disappointment. Peace is learning to turn that disappointment into a positive and moving forward. As for Tammy, he will be re-homed and I will look forward to fresh eggs from my eight lovely hens very soon. Life on the farm continues.