Saturday, September 21, 2013

How (not) to Catch Roosters - running to exhaustion is the day we are thinning our chicken flock. We wound up with 8 roosters and 17 hens, and that is about 5 times too many roosters. The roosters had already isolated and terrorized one of their own - a rooster we nicknamed "freedom ranger" as he would hop the electric fence to avoid the other roosters. Poor guy. He also sealed his fate by biting my finger three times - alas because I was kind of fond of the guy. So freedom ranger was the first bird in the cage - partially to keep him from being terrorized by the other roosters, and partially to save our garden since he was happily pecking through our tomato and cucumber crops in his escapades outside the electric fence.

We figured we had to thin an additional 5 roosters, since leaving more than 2 roosters would be cruel to the hens (Rooster = middle school boy, but with unlimited sex drive). So we started noting which roosters gave us attitude (dragging feathers, doing the rooster dance toward us, or mating a hen directly in front of us) and which roosters were good shepherds to the hen - one good shepherd in particular stood out. It is hard to mark a rooster though because you have to catch it and these roosters are fast (note that they are well known for their mousing abilities). So it is really akin to trying to catch a cat on a 1/8 acre course. So, well, we only got paint on one of the remaining 7 - a particularly offensive and aggressive rooster.

We decided we would shut the chickens up in their mobile coop/roost last night and that would make it easier to get the roosters in the morning. So the big morning arrived and we trooped down there as a family to catch the remaining roosters. Unfortunately, we only were able to get 2 of the remaining 7 roosters coming out of their house! Somehow 5 roosters managed to get by 2 humans even though the opening from the coop is only about 18'' by 24''. So this meant we still needed to catch 3 more roosters.

Catching the remaining 3 roosters was a challenge - and among the three we wanted to catch was the attitude laden chicken, Mr. paint tail, who was essentially an Olympic chicken athlete. We struggled for 30-45 minutes chasing the chickens in vain as our kids got increasingly bored and agitated. Finally, I remembered that an essential strategy that humans have historically used with game including big game like deer was to run them to exhaustion. So, picking one rooster I began to focus on just keeping him running for as long as I could. It worked! After 5-6 minutes he cornered himself, exhausted, under our turkey box. In the process I had exhausted myself, but we now had a working strategy. Emily and I then tag-teamed the remaining 2 roosters - taking 1 minute turns keeping the chosen rooster running. Invariably they would become exhausted in 3-6 minutes, although mr. green tail was truly impressive in both his speed and stamina.

So, I think this is really how not to catch roosters. The only advantage this strategy had was that it allowed us to interact with the roosters and pick the best behaved ones - but next time I think I'll just catch them at night when they are sleepy.

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