In the beginning we said no roosters – NEVER ever! Well, Harry said ‘no, never ever’ to getting a rooster. A long time ago he also said ‘no’ to chickens. Then ‘maybe’ one or two. So six hens and almost two years later we have a rooster we are both smitten with!
A seven-month-old rooster, belonging to a chicken-keeping friend of ours, needed to be re-homed, for various reasons, and as soon as possible. We offered to foster him as a learning experience! After having only hens we could learn a lot from a rooster, right? We made sure we had the option to return him if being with our flockers put him mortal danger. Permanent adoption in the future is also a possibility!
|Hey don’t you want too share?|
We were already calling him Roo for short and couldn’t think of anything that fit. So we went with Ryu (pronounced roo, like zoo, Japanese in origin and means dragon)! He is a gorgeous copper Maran. He has iridescent turquoise and black tail feathers, and blazing copper cape and darker reddish copper flowing down through his wings. He is gorgeous!
|Love the colors!|
Admittedly, in the beginning, I expected Ryu (because he WAS a rooster) to just take over his duties within 24 to 48 hours or (heaven and sanity forbid) we’d end up with another Claudine Effort*! The flock he came from had another rooster and quite a few hens (including Claudine) and he was at the bottom of the pecking order over there. Knowing better this time, we put him up on the roost late a night, the way we should have added Claudine. It’s dark, they can’t see at night and tend to become more accepting of a new addition. The next morning everyone came down the ramp, sleepy, not noticing Ryu at first. Intuitively or from his previous experience he headed for the highest perch in the run. Everyone else ran in circles, flapping wings, doing their war squawk and giving him dirty looks. He huddled down, wrapped his dinosaur feet tightly around it the perch, obviously with no intention of EVER moving from that spot!
|Letting Ryu handle it…|
Our girls are unusually rotten, especially Carmen! It might be because of their breeds, it might be the owners… Who knows!? For over a week they physically and consistently went after him, like a fight club with gloves off. In their opinion he was simply NOT staying and that was that! Six hens on top of one rooster is not a pretty sight. I spent most of my time the first few days breaking up fights and making sure Ryu got his share of food and water. Ryu is almost three times their size but evidently chickens don’t notice things like that!
During the second week they actually worked out a neutrality pact with him. They still did not want him there – but they were now beginning to watch him more out of curiosity…’So whats this fellow up to I wonder?’
|Not surprisingly, Carmen was the very last one to accept him!|
Once we were sure he could fend for himself if he wanted to, we stayed out of things. After a couple of weeks he got tired of being chased and jump on by these ladies HE was supposed to be in charge of. Finally, something in his brain clicked and one by one he got their respect. That wasn’t a pretty sight either but we knew he was capable of setting things right and we just had to (cringe) stand back and let them all work it out.
|Ryu helps to level the playing field!|
One of the first things he did to impress the girls, and show them he wasn’t such a bad guy, was to get into what was left of our spinach garden and pull up pieces of greens, laying them out for the ladies. He also kept making his soft cooing sound letting them know to come over. It took a few more days for them to become totally cohesive, no fighting, no blood shed. The hens will still fight each other occasionally but he breaks them up and they run off to something else.
After two and a half maybe three weeks we deemed them a perfectly integrated, happy flock with Ryu in charge. He watches for hawks while the girls dig up goodies and run around. Chicken feed and water are shared nicely. If he finds something good he’ll call them over to share and they go to him immediately! The ladies go first when it comes to goodies. He will watch till they’re finished and he will finish what is left. What a gentlemen! And did I mention he’s gorgeous?
Our little flockers used to run willy-nilly around the yard with only the Hepburn sisters occasionally staying close to each other. Now he doesn’t let any one of the hens get very far away from the others. He has a certain call he uses to get them back where he is. Julie and Carmen are in their own little world a lot of the time and he will have too go over and herd them back with the others. He always goes into the run and coop last. If anyone is not in he will absolutely NOT go in till she is found…it’s usually Carmen off in her own world! Whether they going up to roost or out to play. As an example, a few mornings ago when the coop door opened, everyone but Carmen came out. Ryu stood by the ramp waiting and waiting… He finally went back up the ramp into the coop, had a loud discussion with Carmen, then back out they both came.
|Carmen playing nicely!|
I work from home and my office is downstairs with windows looking out into the backyard. The first few times they were all out on their own with Ryu supervising I was able to take an occasional peek at them and make sure all was well. If I didn’t see them right off I would tap on the window or make some sort of noise and, proudly, Ryu would bring the little flockers running towards that part of the house. They still come running when I tap on the window, which is not nearly as frequent, but now I get looks like I’ve disrupted something really important – like I’ve just pulled teenagers away from a favorite computer game…
|New improved spa!|
I’ve never seen a rooster take a dust bath, I wasn’t sure if roosters even did that. I guess, to enlighten me, Ryu took one with several of the girls. He dug and burrowed down and had dust and dirt flying everywhere – actually enlarging their spa area! I think I heard Audrey and Katherine thanking him for that!
Our first incident with hawks came this past weekend. Two circling above and he did his ‘you better get out of here’ crow! Everyone ran under a tree and he stood out in the yard keeping his warning crow going till the hawks had flown off. I know tragedies can happen no matter what the circumstances but we are so happy with the way he guards and looks after these girls!
He is a sweet, wonderful rooster. We were, and still are, AMAZED by the way he takes care of the flock! Did I also mention how gorgeous he is?
Eternally wishing for Spring.
Claudine Effort* – Read all about our adventures with Claudine in Community Chickens and how we tried to add another lady to our flock. It was a challenge of epic proportions! In the end the flock she is living with is the flock we got Ryu from. Subsequently it has been a wonderful exchange of little flockers and more education for us. A win-win!