We’ve had drama in the henhouse lately. More than we care for.
A woman in our community who has had a little side business raising chickens is selling out. I’ve bought chicks and pullets from her before and I love how she nurtures and cares for her birds. A couple of weeks ago I bought ten four week old red sex link pullets from her. They have no fear of humans at all. When I go near them they run to me, jumping up on top of my boots and not objecting if I pick them up.
She had seven dark Cornish hens she wanted to sell too. They were running with a big beautiful buff Cochin rooster. She said they’d been together so long she wouldn’t separate them. Whoever bought the hens had to take the rooster too.
I knew we needed another rooster. Our Rhode Island Red Tommy died recently, leaving us only Dee Dee, or Black Copper Marans, in a flock of over 50 hens. But I also worried that introducing a full grown rooster into the flock would cause them to fight and I didn’t want either of them to get hurt. So I reluctantly declined to take them.
After thinking on it for a couple of days I changed my mind. Cochins are a gentle breed, so I figured the new rooster would quickly submit to the dominance of Dee Dee and take a place in the pecking order quickly. I figured as long as I kept a good eye on things, I could intervene before any serious injuries occured.
So I bought the chickens and brought them home. We named our new rooster Elvis and hoped for the best. I left the new birds in a cage, but put them in the chickenhouse to acclimate. Dee Dee didn’t seem to pay much mind to them. That evening, once they’d all settled in to roost, I opened the door on the cage.
The next morning when I went to let them out, Elvis and Dee Dee were battling it out in the henhouse. Both were putting on a mighty show and doing their best to cause the other to back down, but neither seemed to be doing any damage to his opponent. So after I confirmed they were OK, I went about my chores.
A little while later I checked back and it seemed that Dee Dee was getting the best of Elvis. Worried that Elvis might get hurt, I put him back in the cage. He and Dee Dee continued their sparring through the cage walls.
After they’d had time to cool off, I opened the cage again, still hoping they’d come to an understanding soon. When I returned a little while later to check on things there had been a dramatic reversal of fortunes. Elvis was strutting around crowing and Dee Dee was hiding behind the nesting boxes. I was surpised that Elvis was the winner and I felt a little sorry for Dee Dee, who has always been our alpha rooster. But I was relieved the battle was over.
Unfortunatley that was not the end of it. When I checked again, to my surprise Dee Dee was now strutting around and crowing, and something was wrong with Elvis. He was standing in a corner, listless with his head drooped. I could find no sign of any serious injury, but it appeared that he was dying.
I was stunned. I hadn’t left them alone long, and when I did they weren’t fighting. I couldn’t understand (and still can’t) how Dee Dee could have so completely defeated Elvis in such a short period of time.
On Cherie’s advice I took Elvis to a barn stall to give him a safe, stress-free environment. For a day he had no energy or appetite, and could barely lift his head. I suppose Dee Dee must have landed a lucky shot to some part of Elvis’ head, leaving him badly injured. I figured it was just a matter of time till he died and I was very upset about it.
But the next morning, to my surprise, Elvis began to recover. He starting crowing and walking around again. A day later he seemed back to normal. After keeping a close eye on him for a day, I returned him to the henhouse at night, hoping he and Dee Dee were now done with their warfare.
And now things are back to rooster normal. Dee Dee chases Elvis away if he comes too close. Elvis keeps his distance, but has plenty of hens to keep him company. He struts and crows, but he is also a gentle and happy bird. He’s living a great life, peacefully coexisting with Dee Dee.
We’re glad it all worked out.