Meet the Animals – Cock-A-Doodle-Doo

Yesterday saw temps in the low-80’s–positively beautiful weather for homesteading endeavors, so I hung up the laptop for one afternoon and focused on some much needed work around the farm. However, mindful of this week’s “Meet the Animal” series, I did take along my cellphone so I could continue today.

Let me tell you…chickens are NOT easy to photograph. Neither are ducks. Though my cellphone is slim and flat, and does not in any way, shape or form resemble a weapon of mass destruction (at least none that I or my poultry children might be familiar with), they shied, cowered, ran, squawked and flapped their wings whenever I got close enough to take a fairly decent shot. But we persevered. Some of these shots may not be perfect but, hopefully, as they grow more accustomed to their new modeling careers, they will oblige by giving me a few cameos.

The one exception is Tank.

He is the youngest of the three roosters I am introducing here and he proved to be quite the ham yesterday, actually coming closer, striking a pose, and looking up at me as if to say, “Yes, I am a pretty boy, aren’t I?” Tank is a Silkie. These are native to the Far East (sources vary; some say China; others, Japan, etc.) and are considered by many as show birds. Silkies are different than most chickens in that their plumage retains it’s downy-chick texture rather than the individual feathers typical of other breeds. And that downy-feathery plumage continues down to his feet. In fact, his feet are so lush and full with this down, it is part of the reason he earned the name “Tank” because he somewhat resembles a tank as he waddles across the barnyard. Silkies also have some other distinctive characteristics, including black skin and bones; blue earlobes and sporting 5 toes rather than the usual 4 of other breeds of chickens. Silkies are known as the lap kitties of the chicken world. They actually enjoy being handled and are quite sociable.

Next is Corporal Denim.

Corporal Denim’s earliest claim-to-fame was as the “perpetually frustrated rooster”. Being a Cochin, he was considerably smaller than most of the hens I purchased when I got him. The one Cochin female of the flock had no interest in him and, instead, bonded with my big Polish rooster, Sargent Feathers, who was quite protective of Little Peep. That left Corporal Denim with the task of trying to mount hens bigger than he. I used to entertain family and friends with stories about how he almost got “lucky” today but Patience, Autumn, Ruby, etc. threw him off at the last moment and, he was so excited by his almost-triumph, he would “hump” the nearest clump of grass. When I re-stocked two springs’ ago, I had mercy on the poor boy and made sure to get a few smaller hens; he is now quite content.

He was not, however, camera-friendly. Corporal Denim is actually quite shy. As a young cockerel, he gave me some doubtful moments–moments when I strongly considered reneging on my vow that none of these birds would ever see a stew pot. His aggression lasted until Squire came along. Squire was so bad, I carried a shovel, a broom–anything–to block Squire’s attack when I went out to the barnyard. I had hoped that, like The Corporal, Squire would eventually calm down once the hormones and the pecking order were better established amongst my flock. But, with Corporal Denim, his aggression seemed to be sparked if my coat flapped in the wind or my Wellington’s squeaked in the mud, something he didn’t understand. With Squire, it didn’t matter. I still carry a scar on my ankle from his piercing it with a spur. Squire wasn’t just aggressive; he was downright mean. Where I could at least approach Corporal Denim, pick him up and stroke his feathers (chicken whisperer advice at defusing aggression in roosters), Squire was completely different. He was savage with the hens; I had plucked chickens running around the yard at all times. And he bullied Corporal Denim, who, despite his auspicious beginnings, is now a beloved pet. That was enough to make me recant that vow–at least in this one exception. Squire’s meeting with the stew pot was already considered a fait accompli–as soon as I could find a way to capture him without being pecked to death–when Squire was stupid enough to challenge the boss of the barnyard, Sargent Feathers.

This boy has proved to be the best rooster on the planet. He is a Polish rooster and I just love that flashy pompadour of his. Squire was almost his twin as far as plumage is concerned and I had hoped that he would prove to be as good with the flock but, alas, as stated earlier, he was the exact opposite. Squire and Sargent got along well until Squire was stupid enough to challenge this boss of the barnyard. Though there was no sign of blood shed, shortly after Squire challenged Sargent Feathers, I found his body behind the goat barn. And I don’t believe in coincidence. (Chuckle) Sargent Feathers guards his hens fiercely, keeping a watchful eye for predators, especially hawks. He has a very distinctive warning cry–quite rasping and loud enough to wake the dead, and definitely carrying a note of alarm. The moment they hear it, all of my chickens, roosters and ducks take the nearest cover. He has another distinctive sort of clucking, sort of cooing call when he finds a particularly delectable something to eat, calling his feathery friends to join him.

Though I know a lot of farmers would say I have two too many roosters, three is proving to be just right. Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim and Tank get along quite well and they each have their favorites amongst the hens–and there are enough to go around. Though Sargent Feathers’ little love, Peep, was lost a few years’ ago after a fox jumped over the 6 foot fence and killed her, Penny and Delilah Duck, he seems well content with the ladies who currently share his world–I’ll save those for tomorrow.

May God bless you & keep you!

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