Let me introduce you to Rusty – our gorgeous Rhode Island Red rooster.
We’ve had our share of roosters around here – from quite feisty to very docile. Our feistiest rooster was a large Barred Rock rooster who would watch for me to come out the back door and then come after me. He was supposed to be in his pen at all times, but if he got out, the rest of my day was spent indoors or outside with some type of self-defense (One day, I recall, in a rush, I grabbed a toilet plunger; I do hope no neighbors were watching!). On the other end of the spectrum, we had a gorgeous Barred Rock rooster named Chester who was so gentle and easy-going. I could collect eggs without fear of attack. I bragged on my beautiful Chester until we tried to incubate some eggs from him and our hens. Not a one was fertile. So, apparently, some of his gentleness came from a lack of having a job to do.
So, what does this have to do with Rusty? Well, you need to know the background of our other roosters to understand why I so appreciate Rusty. He is the perfect balance in a rooster – feisty enough to be fertile and stand up for his hens, but gentle enough for me to collect eggs without fear of losing flesh. In addition, he is absolutely gorgeous. He is almost two years old, and he is just the perfect rooster for our little flock. His one strike against him is that he did once, for no apparent reason, flog JJ. JJ, although knocked to the ground, was not injured, but he has a fear of Rusty (and all brown chickens, for that matter) that still endures. Outside of that incident, Rusty has been easy-going with people.
So, now you will understand why I was concerned the other day when I couldn’t find him. It happened when I was doing the daily chore of feeding and watering the chickens. I glanced into the pen and noticed he wasn’t strutting around as usual. Hmm, he must be in the coop; that’s odd for him. I looked in the coop-no Rusty. I remembered that one hen was out; perhaps he was with her. She was wandering around solo. Now, if Rusty is out, being the good protector rooster that he is, he is ALWAYS with his hens. Since he wasn’t with her, I knew he wasn’t out of the pen. Where could he be? As a mom of boys, I knew the first line of investigation. The conversation went something like this.
Me: “Boys, have you seen Rusty?”
Boys: “No.” “Nope.” “We haven’t.”
Me: “Did you see him yesterday?”
Boys: “Um, no, but he was under the coop.”
Me: “Under the coop? What do you mean?”
Boys: “Well, he was under the coop, and we were trying to get him out with sticks.”
In my mind: Oh boy, there’s a story coming here.
Me: “Get him out with sticks? What do you mean?”
AJ took over the conversation and explained. “The other day after church when we had people over for lunch, we (meaning them and the children who were guests) were chasing the chickens. Rusty went under the coop and wouldn’t come out. So, we were trying to get him out with sticks.”
Well, this deserved an under-the-coop inspection. Sure enough, there huddled under our coop (which sits up just slightly off the ground on some 4 inch by 4 inch pieces of lumber) was Rusty. As I mentally counted the days since the get together AJ mentioned, I realized poor Rusty had been under the coop 6 days! He appeared to be fine, but he wasn’t about to come to me. I was a bit leery about grabbing him because he has very long spurs. Our coop is big enough that he could easy avoid me from any side I tried to grab him on. So, I put on winter gloves and long sleeves, armed the boys with sticks, and told them to gently push him with sticks to me. Somehow, it worked, and I grabbed him and pulled him out. He fluffed up his feathers and strutted on his merry way – no worse for the wear!
A conversation with the boys ensued about how to have better handled the incident. In their defense, our hens run under the coop and back out frequently. They assumed Rusty would do the same. I’m still not sure why he didn’t (perhaps that doesn’t say much for his intelligence), but he wasn’t harmed, so I still have my prized rooster! I’m still not sure how in the world I didn’t notice he was missing for 6 days. We feed, water, and collect eggs daily. My only excuse is that I feed, water, and collect eggs in the coop, but not the pen, which is where Rusty typically is. Part of me thinks he had to go under himself only the day before we found him, but AJ’s explanation makes more sense.
The moral of the story – remember that life with boys and roosters is full of surprises!
I’ll admit – the title of this blog is deceiving. It is really more of a funny story about our boys than about free ranging chickens, but it does relate to the title if you hang in there until the end.
If you haven’t met our boys, we have 3 boys that I refer to on my blog by initials – AJ (5), CJ (4), & JJ (2). They have been described by various people as “all boy.” I’m never quite sure if that’s a compliment, but I take it as one. They were being “all boy” on a day last week…
AJ and CJ were playing outside on one of the beautiful fall afternoons. JJ and little sister MJ were napping, and I was working inside the house. I always keep my “mom radar” on when the boys are outside. Usually a window is open somewhere so I can hear them, and I frequently look out the windows to see what is going on.
My mom radar picked up that they were playing with the chickens. Our chickens have a fenced in area, but in the late afternoon, we open up the coop door and let them free range. We have several reasons for doing it this way, but that’s a topic for another post.
At first, they were just catching the chickens and putting them under a crate. No chickens were being harmed, and they were having a delightful time.
As time progressed, my mom radar sensed that the delight level was increasing. Before I had time to investigate, a breathless and excited CJ burst in the door saying, “Mommy, Mommy, come look!”
Now, I should’ve taken a picture, but I didn’t. I’ll try to paint the picture the best I can.
Two boys, one stroller, one chicken, one wild ride. The chicken was hunkered down in the stroller – its simple world of eating, drinking, and egg laying totally shattered by this new experience. Indeed, the chicken was actually strapped into the stroller (for safety reasons, I assume) as it was pushed around our driveway at breakneck speed. The boys were all smiles about their new idea of giving chickens rides in the stroller. Feeling sorry for the chicken and worrying how long this “trauma” would prevent it from laying an egg again, I calmly suggested that they go back to catching and trapping the chickens rather than providing entertaining rides for them.
So, in case you’re considering free ranging your chickens and you have little boys around, beware that you never know what they might do!
Vanessa from Russell Homestead. Follower of the Lord Jesus, wife of my knight in shining armor, mother of 5 wonderful children, and joint-keeper of the Russell homestead. Thanks for stopping by!
Independent Field Representative