Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two Roosters in the Hen House

17 Sept 2011: Our two roosters, Gonzo and Percival.
Gonzo's sister Lacy is visible between them.

How did I miss it?  Two weeks ago, Ed and I were outside watching our chickens when I suddenly realized it: Gonzo is a guy!  In the picture above you can see the difference between him and his sister Lacy.  He definitely has a comb and wattle.  She definitely does not.

I looked back through older photos of the chicks.  At 2 months of age, Percy's comb and wattle were becoming noticeable, arousing our first suspicions that there might be a rooster among our 12 hens.  Gonzo, on the other hand, did have a little more red on his head and under his chin than his sister, but the difference wasn't remarkable.  Besides, when looking at Gonzo our attention was drawn mostly to his oddly twisted little face.

17 Sept 2011: Gonzo at almost 4 months old.  Despite the top half of his beak
being so twisted off to the side that the top and bottom don't meet, he manages to eat
enough to be the second largest chicken in the hen house, outsized only by Percy!

However, when I looked back at my last blog featuring Gonzo (on August 28), it seems pretty clear that he was developing all the characteristics of a young cock!  Perhaps Silver Laced Wyandotte roosters (Gonzo) just take longer to develop male characteristics than the Barred Plymouth Rock roosters (Percy). 

As far as we know, Gonzo hasn't begun crowing yet.  That may be because Gonzo's beak is so badly deformed, or it may be because Percy already does enough cock-a-doodle-doing for three roosters (luckily, no neighbors have complained yet).  Gonzo has become quite aggressive toward the females, though, asserting his maleness.

In general, Percy has so far tolerated Gonzo's attempts to subdue the females.  There have been a couple of incidents, however, when Gonzo mistakenly went head-to-head with Percy himself and was immediately put in his place.  Not only is Percy much larger than Gonzo, but he had been ruling the roost for a good month before Gonzo figured out he was a cock, and Percy has no intention of stepping down. 

17 Sept 2011: Gonzo's petite sister, Lacy, another Silver Laced Wyandotte.
I think her black-tipped silver feathers are beautiful!

In 4 days our chickens will be 4 months old.  We hope the females will start laying eggs in a month or so.  We also hope to have no more surprises in the form of unexpected roosters.  It would be nice if the remaining 10 chickens are the hens we originally thought all 12 would be!

It's funny to remember bringing home a dozen little balls of peeping fluff.  When Sarah gave Gonzo his name, I protested that Gonzo is more of a boy's name, but it did seem to fit his strange little face, so the name stuck.  Now that we know he's a rooster, no name change is required!

This story has a bittersweet ending, though.  It looks like Gonzo will be the first of our chickens to wind up in the crockpot.  Ed says it won't be long before Percy will injure or kill Gonzo.  Only one rooster can rule the roost, and Percy has already gotten his job down to a science.  He's very protective of his females and is great at quickly ushering his ladies into the hen house at the first sign of danger.  He keeps them inside until he's checked the perimeter and decided that all is well.

Besides, in a year or two we plan to raise more chicks.  If Gonzo's deformity is the result of a birth defect, we won't want his genes passed on to our chicks. 

Now that the time has come, Ed is a little saddened by the prospect of having to slaughter the first of our chickens, even though we both agree that it's going to be necessary soon.  Still, it is the circle of life and part of our family plan to become more self-sufficient.  And that is a good thing.

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