So our experiment with having a rooster is over...tonight Otis went to that grand chicken coop in the sky, culled by us after fighting with Callie, the largest yet most submissive of our hens.
Otis' story began a couple of years ago when, we made a big, sentimental mistake and acquired some eggs from a friend so our brooding hen Ellen could hatch them out and become a mother. We found good homes for three out of the four of Ellen's chicks. Otis we kept, mainly because roosters are hard to place and we figured we'd try having one and see if he'd end up a good addition to our flock.
|Otis and Ellen|
Otis ended up causing us no problems.... while his mother Ellen was alive. We realize now it was her influence that kept him in line. After Ellen died (she was put down several months ago after suffering a debilitating tumor) his personality became less cooperative, and more typically rooster-ish.
The attack this afternoon was not Otis' first infraction. A few weeks ago he attacked Chloe, our lovely barred rock, and opened up a sizable gash on her comb, which bled profusely. Chloe spent Christmas morning in our bathroom getting doctored up, and when she was ready to go back out Otis was put in a separate pen for a few days so that both would forget their altercation, which chickens often do. Brain the size of a peanut and all that.
But if we thought the temporary time-out/isolation worked, we were wrong. As I mentioned earlier, today I found Otis full-on fighting with Callie, our young Silver-Laced Wyandotte. And so, before another hen was injured, we decided Otis had to be culled.
And while it's never easy to put a bird down, as I was carrying Otis out into the garden and Big Ag was loading the shotgun, I thought about how many chickens grace my dinner plate every single year, and how each one of those chicken dinners represents a bird that died just like Otis was about to.
That's one thing that keeping animals has made me thankful for -- I never take for granted the meat or poultry I eat. I know something that once lived and breathed lost its life in order to be consumed by me, and I don't consume it as mindlessly as I once did.
And so I say farewell to Otis and to roosters in general. We're planning on getting another couple of hens this spring and I'm sure there will be plenty of pecking-order drama when we integrate them into our flock of (now) only three birds. But while it may be difficult to watch the pecking order re-shuffle itself, it will settle down in time, which probably would not have happened with Otis.
Sometimes it's survival of the fittest, but in Otis' case it was a different rule, no less valid or important: Survival of the congenial.