This has been a long day and I must warn that this is a long post. I had so much to say that I couldn’t help this being a long post.
I have been doing quite a lot of research on google about cockerels. I asked how many hens you should have per cockerel and it said ideally you need ten. I have four, that’s a long way to go to get to ten. Less than an ideal number can end up with girls getting harrassed and ending up with no feathers on their back from the constant attention.
It suggested that you need to handle your cockerel from early on to tame him or he could be aggressive. I have been handling Blue every evening from when he was in their box in the little coop and have continued when lifting them to the perch in the evening and he always pecked my hands. Not too bad while little but could be worse in time to come.
Blue has long been harrassing the two silkies, chasing them and standing over them and pecking their heads.
He recently started crowing and his crow was steadily getting stronger and louder and more frequent. Sunday morning he woke us up just after five o’clock and crowed until six o’clock. Now we were really worried about the neighbours.
It’s hot and everyone has their windows open. Three of our neighbours have young children so they are at home during the day. If someone was to complain to the council we might have to give up keeping chickens.
I couldn’t re home him because of the mycoplasma in my flock and I knew there would be a heartbreaking, difficult, decision to be made soon but I would have to take responsibility for it. For now it was constantly on my mind but I just didn’t know what to do.
We were going to see the breeder of the wyndottes and the game birds next Sunday because my husband was going up north to see family this weekend. He set off on Friday and wasn’t sure how soon he would be back but in the end he came back on Saturday.
I suggested on Sunday morning that I could call the breeder and see if we could go right away rather than wait another week. The breeder said that would be fine. I took photos of the current flock to show him to help him understand why on this occasion I would only be taking one girl. I thought if he could see Speckles size compared to the little girls he would understand why I wanted a companion for her.
When we had talked a few days earlier I had told him how I loved Emerald’s glossy feathers. Black game girls have either black or white faces and I had said that I liked her white face because it was red in summer whereas black faces (like my Butterscotch) stay black all year round.
When we arrived I said that I would show him the photos on my phone first so that he could see why I wanted a companion for Speckles. I showed older photos of Emerald and then the new photos of our two groups of three. I explained that the chicks were sold to me as hens but that as he could see one was a cockerel.
I said that that morning he was crowing just after five and the neighbours would not be happy and it was going to be a real problem. He said that as a farmer and a chicken breeder he has to cull cockerels as part of his job. He said if we couldn’t keep Blue then he would do this for us if that was the decision we came to. We said we would think about it.
He then showed us to the game girls and said according to what I had said on the phone he had picked me one out. She had the glossy feathers I had mentioned and the red face. He said she had proved herself to be a gentle mother so had all the qualities I was looking for.
He caught her and put her in our cat box and then showed us round the farm. He showed us his wyndottes and his game chicks. I named our new girl Ebony. I mentioned that her comb was very different to Emerald’s and he said it is more of a wyndotte’s comb as they are hybrids. This is why they live longer than pure breeds.
When we got home my husband suggested we try something different. He said we could put Ebony in the run and see what happens. If there is a problem we could soon separate her and close off a section of the run.
To our amazement there was no hassle at all. Ebony walked the entire run exploring everything. She checked out each food dish and water dish. She had some pellets and some water. She checked out each perch and each shelter. Speckles followed her around but didn’t make a sound or show any aggression.
Cinnamon was the only one who made herself as big as she could and chased Ebony a few times. Ebony who is four times the size of Cinnamon just ran from her. It must be so ingrained in their nature to be gentle that there was no retaliation from her.
My husband said that we needed to think about the breeder’s offer sooner rather than later. If we get complaints about Blue and we have to give up keeping chickens we would lose the entire flock and with myco in our flock that would mean culling the entire flock which would be heartbreaking for both of us.
I have to be responsible and this may not sit well with everyone but we felt we had to make this decision. The downside of keeping this blog is that I have to be honest and I worry about how this may be received but I also have to be responsible. I rang the breeder and asked if my husband could take Blue to him.
I didn’t go as it would be too heartbreaking for me but my husband said it was time he learned how to dispatch a chicken humanely and he got the breeder to show him what to do although whether he would actually be able to do it himself we are not sure.
I will never have young chicks again as I can’t ever risk this happening again. If I can’t get adult seramas in the future I may give up on having more seramas and just add game girls to flock.
My husband settled to watch football and I took the Sunday paper to the top patio to sit in the shade and watch over the flock.
I soon realised something was going on with Ebony. She was looking stressed and manic. She was pacing the run as if she wanted to get out. She was jumping on top of the wooden shelter and scratching then jumping down again and starting the whole process again.
I recognised this behaviour from Emerald. Emerald is the only girl I have ever seen showing this manic behaviour and it was when she wasn’t happy about where she wanted to lay her egg. I suddenly realised that with her red comb and face Ebony must still be laying whereas my previous two game girls stopped laying at the end of May. Another sign of the hybrid between game girl and wyndotte.
I knew that she wouldn’t know where the nest boxes were so I put the little coop nest box in front of the shelter. Ebony went in and out a few times but I could see that she wasn’t happy with it. Her beak was open showing her stress.
Light bulb moment! The breeder uses straw and I use pine shavings. Ebony was used to straw. I rushed to the pet shop and bought a small bale of straw. I put the straw in the nest box and Ebony went straight in and settled down.
Ebony in the nest box
She casually came back out a bit later and I checked the nest box. Sure enough there was her egg. She was now calm and went for a long drink of water.
Ebony laid her first egg with us
On the left a shop bought egg for size comparison. Next is Ebony’s egg then Cinnamon’s egg. On the right is Dandelion’s tiny egg.
The next interesting thing would be what happened at bedtime. Emerald and Speckles always perched in the run together in summer and I would put them in at dusk. I knew that Ebony wouldn’t yet know where the chicken shed was. The question was would she perch with Speckles or at the opposite end of the run. There are four perches to choose from and she had explored them all.
To my utter surprise and joy Ebony had chosen to perch next to Speckles. This just could not have gone any better. The chicks had also put themselves on their perch by themselves.
The chicks have put themselves on their perch
Dandelion and Cinnamon on their perch
Ebony chose to perch with Speckles
This was such a familiar sight!
I picked Speckles up and put her on her perch. I then picked Ebony up and perched her next to Speckles. It was an odd moment because Ebony felt exactly like Emerald to hold.
I am feeling relief all round and this morning I went up to the girls and Ebony was relaxed in the flock as if she had always been there. She is going to fit in perfectly.