Thursday, July 10, 2008

Big birds!

Yesterday I picked up two birds and took them to Buck. First I handed him the little brown Buckeye hen that Megan calls Star. He hefted her and said "less than a pound." That was my guess too, she's timid and delicate, you can easily hold her in one hand. Then I handed him "Chirpy" the rooster above - Joe named him when the chicks were still fuzzy - he had a lot of black in his down. Buck said "Whoa! He's ready!"
I don't know if he's really ready or not, but he is getting amazingly big. Not just Chirpy, all the broiler males are close to five pounds, by the "heft" test. I wasn't planning to start killing until 12 weeks, but we're passing six and the boys are getting pretty big, and a little spunky. Regular cornish cross broilers are bred to be processed at 8 weeks, and these are supposed to be slower, but I don't know if I'll let the roosters go that long. I did learn something, though. I read some things by some chicken behavior guy from University of NM, and he said that you could become "alpha" to your roosters just like you do your dog. In "dog" you have to put the animal on it's back, and/or shake it's scruff, etc. In "rooster" you corner it and pin it's head to the ground, pulling on it's comb or wattles, and poke it's back with your fingers like another rooster was standing on it's back. So I tried that with Chirpy, who is getting pretty fluffed up and flappy lately. It was pretty amazing. He fought for a few seconds, then just gave up and laid there, and when I took my hands away, he just stayed - with his head down on the ground, blinking. I thought I'd injured him somehow, because he was frozen in place, so I lifted his body and set him up on his feet, where he stood for a minute with his head real low... "could I have injured his spine somehow?" I was wondering.... but then he carefully and slowly stepped away, holding his head down until he got back inside his pen. Wow. Wonder how long that lasts? He was mild mannered this morning too. Hmm.......
This guy said some people keep their roosters sub-dominant by carrying them around sometimes while they do chores - the rooster has to let you be boss, reinforcing your alpha-ness. He also said, though, that there is value to a strong, bold rooster... that he'll fight to defend his hens from predators. Maybe so, but the freezer looks like a good place for them to me. Chirpy was standing up tall and fluffing his hackles out to Hannah yesterday. Good luck with that, bird. I don't think she'll demonstrate her dominance in chicken language.

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