Posts Tagged ‘T. Boone Chickens’

The story I’m about to tell may make you think dif­fer­ently about me. I feel dif­fer­ently about myself.

It started this past spring. To fill out my coop I ordered six female chicks from My Pet Chicken—two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens and four Pol­ish chicks.

If you’ve never ordered chicks before, you may be sur­prised to learn that you can order a wide vari­ety of chick breeds online and have them deliv­ered right to your local post office for pickup. Aside from breed and quan­tity, you have two options in order­ing. You can order straight run chicks, which means you take your chances with sex and will prob­a­bly get a mix of male and female chicks. You can also pay a lit­tle bit extra and order sexed chicks, so that you get females.

Any­way, I digress, but this is impor­tant back­ground, as you’ll see.

The chicks arrived and thrived. It wasn’t long, how­ever, before I began to sus­pect that one of the chicks was never going to grow up to be an egg-laying hen. That was an unplanned rooster.

littleman3 sm

Lit­tle Man

Roost­erly behav­ior begins quite early. Male chicks no big­ger than a grape­fruit will begin chal­leng­ing other chicks with shoves and chest thumps. By the time they reach the size of a small cab­bage, they are trum­pet­ing their mag­nif­i­cence to the world, begin­ning with hoarse, stran­gled sound­ing vocal­iza­tions. Their gen­eral atti­tude of arro­gance and enti­tle­ment grows until they begin try­ing to fig­ure out the whole barn­yard sex thing.

I gen­er­ally wait to see how chick­ens look and act before nam­ing them because I think the name should describe the chicken. So, for exam­ple, my pretty, round white Wyan­dotte is named Pearl. The creamy, caramel and choco­late Pol­ish hen is named Twix. (You know, the candy bar?) The two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens seem to be teth­ered together as they cruise around the yard. They are Thelma and Louise.

And the rooster? Well, I named him Lit­tle Man because he reminds me of some diminu­tive men I have known who over-compensate for what they lack in stature with out­sized attitudes.

When it comes to roost­ers, I like to think I have an open mind. I’ll give a rooster a chance to prove him­self and pull his weight around the coop. My hus­band, on the other hand, has decided that all roost­ers are lit­tle sadists just wait­ing to rape, pil­lage and even­tu­ally come after me with their spurs when I am not look­ing. He began talk­ing about the final solution.

Give it some time,” I told him. T. Boone Chick­ens and Johnny Cash were were roost­ers and two of the finest chick­ens I have ever met—not overly rough with the hens and stand­ing tall and alert to the sky while the hens were head-down peck­ing and scratch­ing on walkabout.

On the other hand, Ricky Ricardo was a par­tic­u­larly wicked rooster. Good rid­dance to that bad boy.

What is it about nasty roost­ers that they tend to pick on one hen, in par­tic­u­lar? Ricky Ricardo had it out for Tina Turner and Lit­tle Man hated Dorothy with a passion.

Poor Dorothy could never rest and could hardly eat. Lit­tle Man was always chas­ing her, mount­ing her, peck­ing at her and gen­er­ally mak­ing her life mis­er­able. She had lost a con­sid­er­able num­ber of feath­ers from his attacks. She had become ner­vous and twitchy.

Dorothy 3sm

Dorothy

I felt so sad for Dorothy. She is not a par­tic­u­larly pretty hen. She has a kind of undis­tin­guished brown and white coat and the kind of facial feath­ers that resem­ble a fake Hal­loween beard. But Dorothy has spunk, I tell you. She is always the first hen to see when I am walk­ing toward the coop with left­over pizza in my hands. Dorothy lives for pizza. She is also the hen who would most like to see the world. Chick­ens never stray far from their coop when on walk­a­bout, but Dorothy always walks up the hilly dri­ve­way as far as she dares to go. I often imag­ine she is think­ing, “I won­der what’s over that moun­tain. I will go there some­day and see for myself!”

Sadly, I even­tu­ally came around to Harry’s way of think­ing. Lit­tle Man had no place in our coop.

Now, get­ting rid of a rooster is a prob­lem. You can’t hope they’ll run away from home because they never leave the yard. And you can’t give away a rooster. I have seen many ads on Craig’s List for free roost­ers and no one seems to be tak­ing those ads down. Peo­ple will go to some lengths to re-home a rooster. I once saw a huge road­side sign that said “FREE ROOSTER!” (Aside: I shared the photo on Twit­ter and one quick-witted fol­lower fired back, “Who is Rooster and why is he incarcerated?”)

I decided to con­sult with my very expe­ri­enced and skilled chicken-keeping neigh­bor V. V is a no non­sense per­son. She is not overly sen­ti­men­tal about what needs to be done with bad roost­ers and has become skilled at the task. If I needed to get rid of Lit­tle Man, I could do it myself or she would help. She described to me the method she researched and found most effective—a broom han­dle over the back of the neck and a quick snatch of the head backward.

I did what I nor­mally do in these types of uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions. I pro­cras­ti­nated. I kept think­ing that the sit­u­a­tion would resolve itself. Maybe one of the peo­ple I had asked would mirac­u­lously decide to take Lit­tle Man into their coop. Maybe Lit­tle Man would get reli­gion and become a kinder, gen­tler Lit­tle Man. Maybe the Cir­cle of Life would claim him early through dis­ease, injury or stalk­ing predator.

This did not prove to be an effec­tive strat­egy. Day after day Lit­tle Man con­tin­ued to tor­ment Dorothy.

Finally, one after­noon Lit­tle Man pushed Dorothy—and me—just a lit­tle too far. I decided that was his final day.

I took the first step. I went into the house and had a glass of wine. Liq­uid courage.

I took some deep breaths. I put on my Lit­tle Man killing gloves and marched out into the yard with my broom. I could almost hear dooms­day music play­ing in my head. I cor­nered that lit­tle tyrant in the coop. He was vocal­iz­ing and fight­ing like, well, I was try­ing to kill him.

I wasted no time. I took mean Lit­tle Man out­side. “Okay, you. I’ve had enough of you!” I flat­tened nasty Lit­tle Man on the ground. “You do NOT, repeat do NOT mess with my hens.” (I was really work­ing up a head of steam now.) I put the broom han­dle over hor­rid Lit­tle Man’s head. “This will teach you a les­son!” I yanked his despi­ca­ble Lit­tle Man head back with a force­ful jerk. He went com­pletely limp.

That’s it,” I thought look­ing down at my gloved hands. “I have killed with my own hands. Premeditated.”

I put down the broom, with Lit­tle Man at my feet. I stood up to med­i­tate on what my fury had wrought…and Lit­tle Man jumped up and raced into the woods! He wasn’t dead!

Now I not only had a mean rooster, I had a mad mean rooster.

Time to call in the Spe­cial Forces. I called my neigh­bor V. Very calmly she offered to help.

But I don’t believe in wast­ing per­fectly good chick­ens. I can bring him home for dinner.”

She didn’t mean as a guest.

She was here within five min­utes. I explained the ridicu­lous results of how I had tried to do the deed.

That sounds like the first time I butchered a turkey in my basement.”

(Note to self: Do not mess with V.)

By this time Lit­tle Man had made it back to his tor­ture Dorothy location.

V headed toward the coop. I noticed she wasn’t wear­ing gloves, so I offered mine. She took them, but I got the feel­ing that she was humor­ing me.

In no time flat V had snatched up that rooster, held him by his feet, slapped him on the ground, put the broom over his neck and sent him to rooster heaven (or hell). The end.

To rein­force her point about waste, I noticed that V had brought her own garbage bag to put Lit­tle Man in. Really, she could have just car­ried him home by his feet. But I sup­pose the spec­ta­cle of her walk­ing down the road swing­ing a dead rooster by the feet was too much even for V.

So there it is. The story of how I tried to kill Lit­tle Man and failed—and then called in a trained pro­fes­sional for the job.

It’s not how I saw myself behav­ing when I began keep­ing pet chick­ens sev­eral years ago. I am still sen­ti­men­tal about them. I give them spe­cial treats to keep them happy and extra spe­cial treats on hol­i­days. I give them names and mourn when a good hen passes. We bury hens that get sick and die.  I have been known to cry over a chicken.

But now I know when to say “enough is enough.” I know when to pro­tect the good chick­ens from a bad chicken. And now I know how to do it.

You can fol­low Bum­ble­bee and get updates, includ­ing new posts, on Face­book: https://www.facebook.com/BumblebeeLife

 

 

Robin

It was a sad week here at the home­stead. It started when my most beloved three-year-old rooster, T. Boone Chick­ens, devel­oped a seri­ous abscess on his big chicken foot.

I hauled him off to the vet­eri­nar­ian who anes­thetized him and exam­ined him more closely. Accord­ing to the vet, because chick­ens don’t have sig­nif­i­cant blood cir­cu­la­tion in their feet, it’s dif­fi­cult for a major foot wound to heal.

Robin, you need to put T. Boone to sleep,” advised the vet. “He’s not going to get bet­ter. In fact, he’s going to get a lot worse. And he is in pain.”

Now, if you haven’t ever had pet chick­ens, you might find it odd that I was reduced to a pud­dle of tears at hear­ing this news. Even some peo­ple who have pet chick­ens might con­sider the fact that I spent the bet­ter part of the after­noon weep­ing an overreaction.

But I raised T. Boone from the time he was a baby fuzz ball in my palm, which may account for part of why he was so tame.

I bought T. Boone and two other baby chicks from an Amish farm­ers mar­ket. I was assured that all three chicks would grow up to be fine hens. So we called him Olivia—for a while any­way. Two of the three chicks sur­vived and both were roost­ers. (So much for the chick sex­ing skills of the guy at the farm­ers market.)

T. Boone was sec­ond rooster around here for a long time. In fact, he was at the bot­tom of the peck­ing order and the hens never hes­i­tated to shoo him away or pun­ish him by peck­ing at  him. The big chicken on cam­pus at that time was Johnny Cash.

But when free rang­ing in the yard, T. Boone still patrolled and pro­tected the hens who dis­re­spected him in the coop.

Two years ago T. Boone, Johnny Cash and the hens were on walk­a­bout, search­ing for bugs, stretch­ing their legs and enjoy­ing the unsea­son­ably warm Feb­ru­ary day. I didn’t see what hap­pened, but it appeared that the roost­ers fought off an attack by one—or pos­si­bly two—hawks or eagles. Johnny Cash was car­ried off and never seen again.  There were two huge pools of T. Boone’s white feath­ers about 200 yards apart. Could T. Boone have been attacked, dropped and attacked again?

When we finally found T. Boone in the woods it was clear that he was gravely injured. He was dazed and couldn’t walk. He let me pick him up to exam­ine him and I found he had huge punc­ture wounds on both sides of his body under his wings.

I was cer­tain that he wouldn’t live until morn­ing. I didn’t know of any vet­eri­nar­ian at the time who would even euth­a­nize a chicken but I didn’t have the heart (or the nerve) to break his neck—even to put him out of his mis­ery. Nei­ther my hus­band nor my son would take on the job.

We put him into the coop where he crawled into one of the nest boxes to hide. Well, he thought he was hid­ing, but as you can see, he didn’t fit. T. Boone was a very big chicken.

Days went by and T. Boone kept hang­ing on. I gave him water, put salve on his wounds and pre­pared myself to find him dead every morn­ing I went into the coop to greet the chick­ens for the day.

Instead of dying,  T. Boone crawled out of the nest box and tried to stand! At first he couldn’t hold his head up or walk. He did a lot of stand­ing around. I posi­tioned him near the food and water so he could help him­self when­ever he was thirsty or hun­gry. After a month or so, he could stand upright again, but he walked. With a limp.

Nev­er­the­less, he had cheated death—that time.

With­out Johnny Cash in the role of lead­ing chicken, T. Boone stepped into the job. When­ever the hens were on walk­a­bout, T. Boone would be stand­ing guard. He knew full well what dan­gers the hens faced out­side the safety of their coop and chicken run. The chick­ens would hunt and peck for bugs. T. Boone would stand nearby war­ily eye­ing the sky and the woods. Any time there was a sense of dan­ger, T. would begin honk­ing in alarm, send­ing the hens scram­bling under the shrubs and into the trees.

 

He also ful­filled all of his roost­erly duties (if you know what I mean).

Some peo­ple have had bad expe­ri­ences with aggres­sive or mean roost­ers. I have seen both sides of the rooster behav­ior spec­trum and T. Boone was def­i­nitely one of the kinder, gen­tler roost­ers. He always greeted us and would fol­low me around beg­ging for treats. His favorites were corn, pizza and any kind of baked good—cake, muffins, bis­cuits, bread. He would even show up at the back door to peer in and beg.

Is this where you keep the cans of corn?”

I love my hens. But they don’t have the bold per­son­al­ity, the larger-than-life appear­ance or the endear­ingly quirky habits that T. Boone had. If you can love a chicken, I loved T. Boone.

Rest in peace, T. Boone. You were a good and brave rooster. I hope you’re in chicken heaven where the sun is shin­ing and where there is an end­less sup­ply of corn, pizza and baked goods.

 

Robin

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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