Small flock chick­ens are never bor­ing.  If you’ve never kept them, then you prob­a­bly haven’t spent evenings like I have, sip­ping wine and watch­ing Chicken TV, as well call it—the antics of the chick­ens as they hunt for bugs, flap their wings and take dirt baths behind the lilac bush. Recently, the chicken drama here has ranged from slap­stick to tragedy, with a good deal of mys­tery in-between.

The ker­nels of dis­con­tent and upset in the coop began way back this past sum­mer when Edith went broody and hatched a lit­tle grey chick we called “Baby,” since we have zero chicken sex­ing skills. After Edith and Baby’s mater­nity leave in a sep­a­rate coop and rein­te­gra­tion into the flock, chick­ens did what chick­ens will do and tried to peck at Baby to ensure she/he knew she/he was at the bot­tom of the peck­ing order.

Baby and Edith were inseparable–and of great inter­est to the other hens.

Despite her diminu­tive size, Edith was Baby’s fierce pro­tec­tress. She and Baby cruised around the run as if teth­ered side-by-side. When any of the other chick­ens approached the pair, Edith would puff out her chest and chal­lenge the offender. Not even the enor­mous rooster T. Boone Chick­ens would cross Edith in her height­ened state of mater­nal fierce­ness. At night, Edith would tuck Ricky under her to keep him warm. When he grew too large to sit on com­fort­ably, they sat side-by-side with Edith’s wing cov­er­ing him.

All of this we/them drama did not make for a quiet and happy coop. The chick­ens seemed out of sorts. They had dif­fi­culty set­tling down at night. In the morn­ings I would find them churn­ing around in a state of agi­ta­tion. Egg pro­duc­tion dropped to near zero.

Baby grew at an amaz­ing rate. His/her fuzz was replaced by feath­ers and brown mark­ings. He/she grew speck­led feath­ers along the head and shoul­ders. Baby looked like a chicken assem­bled from spare parts.

Baby grew at an amazing rate.

Edith and Baby grad­u­ally started expand­ing the dis­tance between them as they mean­dered among the rest of the flock and Baby began the process of nego­ti­at­ing his/her place amongst the chickens.

It was dur­ing this ado­les­cent phrase that I started hav­ing grow­ing sus­pi­cions that Baby was a rooster. There would be no eggs from this chicken.

Unlike other chick­ens I had inte­grated into the flock, Baby would aggres­sively chal­lenge hens twice his size. Even though he would get a good solid warn­ing peck and would retreat, Baby would advance again. And again.

Things were heat­ing up. There was def­i­nite dis­cord in the coop. There were no eggs for days and days.

We re-named Baby Ricky Ricardo. Then Ricky fig­ured out he was a rooster and had an idea about what roost­ers are sup­posed to do. This is where it gets bad.

In the coop he would try to mount the hens and there would be peck­ing and noise. When the chick­ens were on walk­a­bout and he tried to mount a hen they would run away. Ricky would give chase. There was a lot of run­ning around because Ricky didn’t give up. He just kept chasing.

Ricky Ricardo looked as if he were assem­bled from spare parts.

The yard was lit­tered with feath­ers. The hens were exhausted. Ricky was frus­trated. My dozy lit­tle flock had turned into a churn­ing mass is discord.

Frankly, I was sur­prised that T. Boone Chick­ens, the only other rooster, didn’t put a stop to all of Ricky’s shenani­gans.  He would just watch curi­ously when a hen ran by with Ricky in pur­suit. His lais­sez faire atti­tude may be due to the fact that T. Boone can­not run and can only walk with a limp due to an eagle attack a cou­ple of years ago that nearly killed him.

Then one Sun­day the chick­ens were on their after­noon walk­a­bout while my hus­band and I raked leaves and worked on tidy­ing the winter-ravaged gar­den. Sud­denly, Tina Turner ran by squawk­ing, with Ricky Ricardo in hot pur­suit. She ran this way. She ran that way. Ricky was like a marathon sprinter. He wasn’t giv­ing up.

Exhausted, Tina finally wedged her­self between the house and a trel­lis. The posi­tion was awk­ward and Ricky wasn’t able to mount her, so he began peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. Tina was mak­ing fran­tic, dis­traught sounds.

Harry held Ricky off with the han­dle of the broom while I extracted Tina from behind the trel­lis. I was mov­ing to put her into the coop out of harm’s way when she sud­denly pan­icked and broke free, run­ning to the woods. Ricky darted past my hus­band with the rake and took off in hot pursuit.

Tina again sought refuge, this time under a shrub in the woods. Ricky com­menced peck­ing at her and pulling out her feath­ers. I think he intended to kill her.

I pick up Tina to put her into the coop. She was so pan­icked that she started squawk­ing. Ricky then came after me with Tina in my arms.

Of course, I did what any­one would do, I screamed like a lit­tle girl. “EEEEEEEEEE!”

Harry, fig­ur­ing what the prob­lem was, started yelling from across the lawn some­thing like, “No, stop! STOPSTOP!”

I ran. Tina got loose. Ricky fol­lowed her again. This time though Tina headed deep into the woods and eluded me, Ricky and Harry with the rake.

At the end of the day Ricky non­cha­lantly wan­dered back into the chicken coop with the other chick­ens while Tina Turner was still hid­ing in fear. She spent the night out­side. Thank­fully, she was well-hidden and sur­vived until morning.

The next day dur­ing walk­a­bout, Tina retreated deep into the woods to avoid Ricky’s atten­tions. When it was time to go home to roost at sun­set she started timidly approach­ing the coop, only to have Ricky chase her away.

Here is where I faced a dif­fi­cult and per­haps life and death deci­sion. This was not the first instance of overly-aggressive behav­ior on Ricky’s part. Do I let the chick­ens work it out, risk­ing Tina Turner to injury or per­haps death? Do I allow Ricky Ricardo to ter­ror­ize a docile hen because he is just fol­low­ing his roost­erly instincts? If I inter­vene, what do I do about Ricky? Would any­one want a mean rooster?

There is more to this story…to come.

Be Socia­ble, Share!
Robin

11 Responses to “Still…Life with Chickens”

  1. Jane Grayson Says:

    Hi — you must remove Ricky from the group. This is not fair to the major­ity of the chick­ens. Whether you find a sin­gle home for him where there are no other hens — doesn’t mat­ter — oth­er­wise you will have to have him euth­a­nize. Nature is cruel in order to keep bal­ance. Ricky would be killed by another rooster in any other sit­u­a­tion with that aggres­sive behav­ior. Since T Boone can’t you must — just that sim­ple. well, sim­ple… but sad

  2. meemsnyc Says:

    Ricky Ricardo is such a cute name for the chicken. It’s too bad he’s overly aggres­sive and ter­ror­iz­ing the oth­ers. Hope he calms down.

  3. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Says:

    He does look like he’s put together with spare parts. Did you ever fig­ure out who laid the egg?

  4. Boudreaux Says:

    I say break his neck and have him for sun­day dinner.….Yum!

  5. Jaimers Says:

    I’ve heard that if you can exert dom­i­nance over the rooster and make your­self at the head of the flock, he might calm down. So don’t allow him to try to mate with any of the hens and when he’s act­ing aggres­sive, pin him down on the ground or pick him up and carry him around for a few min­utes. As T Boone isn’t lay­ing down the law, you’ll have to.

  6. Cookie Says:

    I’ve seen where chick­ens have pecked all the feath­ers off another, then with the vic­tim wedged in an inescapable posi­tion, they con­tin­ued peck­ing at the flesh until the entrails came out.

  7. Dana Says:

    Sorry about the drama! I don’t know if this works with chick­ens, but when a guinea cock gets out of hand I stick him in a dog crate inside the bird­house for a week or two. He finds this hum­bling. Oth­er­wise I sus­pect its the stew pot for Ricky (and I’ve only killed one adult so I am not so tough and I feel for you).

  8. Phyllis Says:

    Hi, I just found you.

    I have a small flock of chick­ens myself. When I’ve run into this prob­lem, I’ve done one of two things. I either sep­a­rate the trou­ble mak­ing rooster to a sep­a­rate “bach­e­lor” pen, or he gets taken for a very long walk (lit­er­ally). It just depends on how aggres­sive he is. I’d rather feed a local fox than feed a human.

  9. tangledgardens.blogspot.com Says:

    Mr. Ricky Ricardo has far too much testos­terone! I am very ten­der­hearted and could never kill an ani­mal or let it loose in the wild. I would either sep­a­rate him or find him a new home. He will prob­a­bly out­grow his aggres­sive­ness once he is no longer a hor­mon­ally crazed teenager.

  10. sharon Lovejoy Says:

    Well, I once tried to show my dom­i­nance to a mean rooster, but he ended up show­ing ME.

    I like peace in a hen house and in a gar­den. Don’t they have homes for mis­fit roost­ers? I don’t think I could eat one that I had once held and enjoyed.

    Good luck,
    Sharon Love­joy Writes from Sun­flower House and a Lit­tle Green Island

  11. hen-rietta Says:

    Ricky Ricardo is a bad egg, maybe he has low self esteem.
    He is a mis­fit and a trou­ble maker. Since T Boone is not step­ping up you should take charge, and remove him from soci­ety until he has calmed down.

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