Boys and Girls…Cockerels and Pullets

Labor Day greetings! We have been working so hard lately that we wish we had the day off but there is no such thing this time of year at the farm! Not much time to write but that’s because there has been so much activity here lately.

The new rear property fence is now installed save for the 16 foot wide double gate which was supposed to be here 2 weeks ago but hasn’t yet appeared. We have a temp gate in place but have continued to have deer frustration during the installation since we were widely vulnerable each night during this process. The recent deer census in our area is crazy…43 deer per acre (translating to more than 215 here at the farm alone!!!) which is nearly double the number in the last 9 years and unacceptable for them as well. No zoo would be allowed to house that ratio of deer. Keeping them out is now our main goal!IMG_4469.jpg

Despite the depressing deer news, Dave has tilled up 2/3 of the summer fields and is in the process of planting the fall season. Today he worked on putting together a new Mantis brand rototiller for smaller areas. The new barn was a nice place to do this!IMG_4558.jpg

With most of the summer crop volume in the rear view mirror, my processing demands are diminishing. The cukes (341 plus pounds YTD) are done and so is my pickle making! After putting up a mixture of sweets, dills and sours in 265 pints and 52 quarts, I’m all pickled out! Wouldn’t you know, the jalapeno peppers that we love to add to the sweet pickle jars are still coming in strong. I froze these today to use throughout the winter. IMG_4560.jpgWe also harvested the summer Brussels sprouts and are ready to plant the fall crop which is much tastier since these plants prefer the cold weather, including light frosts. Boy these are yummy when roasted!IMG_4310.jpgHere are the eggplants I’ve breaded for roasting today to freeze for future use…about to hit the oven in this photo.IMG_4562.jpg

The chicks are 10 weeks old today and growing like weeds…so much so that everyone keeps asking if we have eggs yet since they appear to be nearly full grown. IMG_4551.jpgThe answer is ‘no’! Most breeds of chickens don’t start laying until they range from 20-28 weeks but we have one variety, Cinnamon Queen, that starts laying at 18 weeks. The Easter Eggers will start around 21 weeks so we have some time yet for the girls to be teenagers first. Can you see the yellow chicken swing I recently installed for their entertainment in the photo above? They continue to love the greens I add each day and have fun playing on the rungs of this old wooden ladder. IMG_4405.jpgWe had our first medical emergency in the flock but I think I was prepared. Petunia, one of our dear Easter Eggers, had a bleeding tail feather shaft last week. I’m not sure how this happened, but once there is blood in the coop, the other chicks peck at it and the only thing to do is to isolate the bird and medicate until healed. Don’t look if your stomach is weak but here it is after a bit of clean up. IMG_4316I knew to put Vetericyn on it and had pre-ordered this from a vet med supply house. IMG_4323.jpgIt helped almost immediately but I also put a back apron on her so that she and others could not peck at the area. IMG_4345.jpgThis apron fit over her wings and was relatively easy to install but took me a couple of minutes to get it adjusted just right. I bought the pink one for breast cancer awareness…the irony of this is coming later! IMG_4375.jpgPetunia wore it with pride!IMG_4382.jpgAnd was still able to loft up to the night time roost with the others with no problems. IMG_4418.jpg

That brings me to a touchy subject that I’ve avoided addressing on the blog but have personally come to terms with in recent weeks and finally thought it was time to share. Plain and simple, I discovered we had some R.O.O.S.T.E.R.S in the mix of chix at the farm! Yes, despite the fact that I had made an order for all female chicks, the vent sexing (professional rear end inspection that separates the sexes) that is done within hours of hatching is known to be only 90-95% accurate. Arg! I think this is why the hatchery throws in a couple of extra babies as they did for me.

I started to be suspicious one morning when I heard what sounded like a tweener chick trying to voice an early morning announcement of some sort. Funny, but was it partly a croak or perhaps a clearing of throat? It sounded like “ooh-ra-doo-ra-doo”…in other words, cockerel baby talk. (FYI, young female chicks are called pullets and a young males are cockerels.)  The physical appearances of developing combs and waddles (both sexes have a set of each but they do appear different depending on the breed and stage of development) were also starting to become more and more apparent. My daily obsessive review of the chicks sent me to on-line forums with masses of photos for identification purposes. There is even a site for posting pics that offer identification assessments. The youthful crowing was also coming from the most colorful of the gang which is another indication of cockerels. Suspicions were verified…I did not have an entire flock of girls as I had wanted!

So, here is the rub. Roosters are typically the most aggressive individuals in the flock which was not part of the personality profile we were going for since we had purposely selected the most docile of chickens breeds for our purposes. Although I knew that our area does not prohibit us from housing rooster/s, the fact of the matter is that the acceptable ratio of rooster to hen in a single flock is 1-10. If I had had one cockerel out of the total 21 that would not have killed the deal. But wouldn’t you know, we had more than one in our mix. In fact we had four which is greater than the percent of error from the hatchery statistics than I had expected and a greater acceptable flock ratio as well. Arg!

So what is one to do? It hardly mattered that I didn’t want any aggressors in the mix nor that I wasn’t interested in hatching future batches of chicks from fertilized eggs. No matter what my end goals were, I just had too many males unless I was wanting to cull the young roosters for Sunday dinners as I had watched both my grandmothers do. So most if not all had to go…and go somewhere soon. Lucky me. Kate helped spread the word and lo and behold, one of her colleagues in the science department at JBS was interested in adopting some cockerels. He had kept chickens in the past and showed up two weekends ago with his young sons and took some cockerels to his coop.

So, now the coop is relatively peaceful and less complicated since the pecking order is more straightforward with just hens. And, the irony revealed – Petunia, aka the cockerel Phineas, is now happily running around the all male flock somewhere in O’Fallon, Missouri.

The intrigue of the sexes continues to dominate the farm (I can’t get a break!) as I recently introduced a new queen in the ‘girl’ beehive. A couple of weeks ago it became apparent that the original queen that was so productive in that colony either swarmed off or befell some other fate, leaving a thriving group of bees in need of a queen. I located one locally that is called an “ankle biter” since this strain is known to bite the mites that infect their colonies. Yay! Whatever it takes! Bite away! I put her into the hive late Wednesday and then pulled the cork on the cage separation 3 days later. Crossing fingers that this is a good take for the bees!

We had the pleasure of hosting little Coulter for most of the Labor Day weekend while his parents were in DC for a wedding. Aren’t they a cute young couple!IMG_4369.jpgWe, on the other hand, had so much fun here with their little one as our guest…IMG_4306.jpgIn the pool on the terrace….IMG_4542.jpgAnd at the Magic House grocery carefully selecting fruits for his basket…IMG_4436.jpgAnd a simple tub bath at the end of the day! IMG_4512.jpgNight, night!

2 thoughts on “Boys and Girls…Cockerels and Pullets

  1. I wonder if the other chickens were jealous when they saw one of their group show up in a pretty pink garment…and they had none?
    Kate and Jason are striking! And…Coulter…as always…warms this granny-wannabe’s heart.

  2. Oh how we LoVED the Magic House when we visited 3.5 years ago. Lucky Coulter!! Michelle and Co.

    Sent from my iPhone


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