|Locked out of paradise.|
This is Otis, the last of the brood that Ellen hatched out last spring. As you can see, he's turned into a fine looking bantam rooster. I did not necessarily want a rooster, but when you hatch a clutch of eggs, you get what you get. Just my luck, I ended up with three roosters and one hen, and was damn lucky to find homes for two out of the three roos. Otis was the last, and so I kept him.
Being a bantam, Otis is too small for those folks who would buy a rooster to make chicken stew from. So he's no good for butchering. But on the positive side, his crow is not overly-loud and obnoxious because he's so small, and he doesn't hassle (a.k.a. rape) the hens because he's just not big enough to mount them, and so in some ways, he's been a pretty easy keep for a rooster.
Up until now, Otis has lived the life of a Napoleonic complexed, hen-pecked husband with six wives who boss him around constantly. But now he's developed a habit that I cannot abide or live with: he's become an egg eater.
I discovered this last week when I went in to collect eggs and found him next to the evidence...a broken egg, contents leaking all over the nesting box...and there was Otis, so innocently standing around right at the scene of the crime. He got one pass, as I figured it might have been a hen who pecked her own egg, and the henpecked husband was just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Then I caught him a second, and the next day a third time. So there was no mistaking Otis as the culprit. When you google "egg-eating chicken" on the internet, one of the things the chicken websites tell you to look for is incriminating egg residue on the offending chicken's beak, but I went more on "means, motive and opportunity" as my methods of discovery.
And so now Otis must free-range during the day, in order that he does not have access to the nest boxes. He doesn't seem to mind too much, right now, except when it's raining or windy (he does have places to get out of the weather, but chooses not to use them). I would imagine that as the days get longer I will have him free-range 24/7, to minimize having to go outside every morning and evening to relocate him.
It's a hard life for male animals on the homestead, no question. A farm is possibly the one place where being born female has a distinct advantage -- you reproduce, therefore you're more valuable and can often expect to live a long life, cared for and loved.
But Otis The Egg-Eater must now live the life of a bachelor frontiersman, out in the yard. He's just lucky he's not big enough to eat, I suppose. And while I do worry he may become food for a hawk or other raptor, it's a fear I'll have to live with and a risk Otis will have to take. Because his only other option is becoming part of a one-portion, bite sized stew.
P.S. Since relocating him to free-range all day, not a single egg has been eaten.