Or, my story of The Rooster formerly known as ChickenHawk.
Now, as a general rule, I don’t name birds I am not keeping. It’s very difficult to process (butcher) an animal with name, at least in my worldview. The story I’m about to tell was a good learning experience for me, in particular, on the virtues of being patient.
I bought 16 chicks this past spring and I had a plan:
- I bought a few extra for attrition (it’s not unknown for up to 20% of chicks to die).
- Let them grow a bit and pick the ones I want to keep.
- Sell or process the rest.
Since I really like blue eggs, I knew I wanted another Ameraucana. So I made sure I included three Ameraucanas in my order, figuring worst case, at least one would survive. I was also able to order sexed chicks, females only. Fortunately, the chicks were so healthy, not one died in the entire batch. As they grew, I decided I wanted the white/brown/black Ameraucanas as she was beautiful. A little fierce, but I figured the big girls would tamp that down when the chicks were integrated into the main flock.
I was so excited. I named her ChickenHawk because of her fierceness and her looks. And I sold the other two Ameraucanas at right about eight weeks.
And then, at about 10 to 12 weeks of age, I heard some crowing… it was rough, not loud and clear like my rooster, Guapo, but definitely someone learning to crow. I was very worried as we have noise ordinances in my neighborhood. Guapo actually has a bachelor pad where he goes every night. He comes out just before I leave for work so he’s not waking up the neighborhood at 4:30 a.m. A second rooster would be a bit much for me to manage with this set-up. As I had pretty much settled on who I was keeping and who I was not, I was concerned it was one of the pullets (now a cockerel) that I wanted to keep.
I quickly found out it was ChickenHawk. I was devastated. He immediately lost his name. I made an appointment to have the now anonymous bird processed. All the while, sweating bullets someone would say something to the city code office as he was getting louder every morning. I was also watching him turn into a truly beautiful animal. Had I the wherewithal, I would have kept him. His tail feathers were growing out a brilliant teal. Combined with his overall coloration, he was becoming magnificent.
Before I go on, you may ask why I didn’t try re-homing him. I’m sure most, if not all of you, are aware how difficult it is to home roosters. Most people don’t want to deal with the 4:30 a.m. crowing let alone the aggressiveness. On a personal level, I hate waste and it seemed wrong to kill him and not use him for food just for being male. At least if he were processed, it wouldn’t be a total loss.
I was and am incredibly disappointed on several levels. I wanted more blue eggs. I hated processing a bird with a name (even though he lost the name, it was hard disassociating the name from the bird). I hated processing such a beautiful bird. I ordered a female! I know, all selfish reasons and first world problems. However, it was a good learning experience:
- Be patient! Never name until well after 15 weeks.
- Be patient! Do not sell until 10 to 12 weeks, minimum. That includes sexed chicks because obviously, mistakes happen.
I may also try a different supplier should I purchase more birds in the future. And, knowing that the pullets I did keep may eventually end up processed or sold, I did not name any of them. Why? As I mentioned above, unnaming is a bit more difficult than naming. Since I almost got physically sick on the way to the processor’s, it was an all around unpleasant trip for me and the bird.
And that’s the story of the rooster who used to be a hen named ChickenHawk.