Here Comes the Next Season

Today we were under a red flag warning.    What that means is that conditions are right that a wildland fire if started could go wild and easily grow.   Today the air is super dry, my phone says the humidity is 13% and the winds are blowing a steady 21 mph in town.   The temperature here at the house is 84 degrees in the shade and the winds here are surely as strong as they are in town.   Yes I am from the Midwest and know that 84 isn’t hot at all, but at our place in Montana it is darn hot.

We are starting to enter fire season around here.   The Red Flag warning is a sign of the coming of the end of summer.    Our grasses are all cured and getting drier by the day.   The hottest days of the year should be just around the corner.   I can’t remember the last time we had any moisture, but we have dry lightening at least a couple times a week. That is how many of the local wildland fires start.    RangerSir had spent the last week trimming down grasses around the house and outbuildings because it is the time of the year you do that type of thing if you live here.   We had a large grass fire between our house and town last week.   If something gets started out here it should burn hot and fast through our property, but we should be ok.   There is always the factor of what are the odds of should really means.   So you do all that you can do to improve your odds.

I went out today to try and photograph rooster boy thinking I would get some good photos and would blog about the chickens.   The weather was not cooperating. He is a handsome blue rooster, instead here with the wind at his back  he looks like he is having a terrible hair day.   Oh well what is a little wind now that we are in fire season.

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Reprieve, Not a Pardon

This weekend Mr. Ranger Sir and I had plans to to cull the roosters from our not so tiny flock on his only day off  for the next few weeks.   Instead of the wonderful early summer weather we had planned for, we had wind, rain, and cold temperatures.   We decided that we were not going to stand outside and butcher under those conditions just to get rid of the roosters.

No one needs as many roosters as we have.    We have leftover packing peanuts from when our baby chicks were shipped to us.   After years of never getting a wrong sexed bird, we got two this year.    So we are feeding lots of chickens for no other purpose to fatten them up.    Our roosters were finally just large enough to butcher.   Now seemed like a good time because their personalities have not turned nasty towards  humans, dogs,  one another or the hens.     Except for two of them, they are big ugly roosters, the male counter part of sex linked hybrids. Ok…ok…ugly might be to0 harsh of a word but they are definitely not handsome roosters like the barred rock or the gold laced wyandotte.     The fact we decided not to put ourselves out in such adverse weather conditions means the roos  have received a reprieve not a pardon.    Next date the bus leaves for a freezer camp is sometime after the 7th of July.   Lets hope everything stays peaceful until then and we don’t regret our decision.

Testerone Gone Wild

I was on the road last week.  It was week 3 for the chicks.   My husband was in charged of the new chick care while I was gone.  He did well in my absence…none died.

I came home to find that last week my new chicks had made great strides in not only growing larger,  feathering out, but they began to start showing which sex they likely were.   I could see many large combs with pink showing.  Looking under their beak you could see signs of waddles developing.  I was began to start pronouncing certain birds males.  They had reached a new level of maturity, it was time for them to make a move to new digs.

I set up space in the shed outdoors for the baby chicks.   It had twice the floor space they had had the week before with multiple heat lamps and feeders.   I have been watching them as them made the adjustment to the space. They went from “fraidy cats” who traveled in groups  to brave birds who explored all corners of their world alone.  One would think with the double space I had bought a little time that the trouble with  young roosters with raging hormones would cause.   Instead almost immediately we started to see posturing of male chickens challenging each other.    The new roosters were standing tall and dancing around each other.   Today my little roosters have started to grab my new little laying hens by the neck and making mating overtures. Soon today one of my hens had a head with no feathers.

Chickens can become quite cannibal when they peck each other if blood is drawn.   I  had to take action to stop all of this.  We did not have the time or things on hand to remedy this.      I ordered a second dog exercise pen today, that will be delivered tomorrow.   Tomorrow I will once again double the floor space for my new chickens with the roosters in one and the hens in another.   Once I ordered I was wondering if this would blow over.    Tonight I got confirmation I had “done right” when one of my full-sized birds “jumped the fence” and went into the baby chicks pen.   My little roosters repeatedly challenged her.   I wish I had had my camera to capture all this. Imagine a three-week-old rooster challenging an adult bird.   Testosterone gone wild.

The Perils of Being a Rooster

Poultry is enjoying a revival.  There are folks all over the country who are taking on two or three hens, many of them in cities.   This is good in many ways, as our society becomes less agricultural people become more distanced from their food.   It is also bad in a different way, as we aren’t always prepared to deal with roosters. 

Look at the comb at 4 weeks! It looks like a rooster to me.

 

This year we bought 6 chicks that were suppose to all become hens.   As they grow I watch them carefully for signs of a rooster, after all sexing day old chicks is only at best 90% accurate.  Half are 9 weeks and the other half are 6 weeks. It appears that we have 3 hens, one rooster and the jury is out on the last 2. 

Hands down roosters are handsome birds, they are what our minds conjure up when we think of chickens.  Think the old Corn Flakes box.  The colors so bright and beautiful.  Feathers shining and reflecting different colors depending on how the sunlight catches them.  A good rooster can also serve to keep an eye on the hens and warn them of predators.   On the other side of the rooster debate is the evil rooster.  Everyone who has known chickens for any amount of time can tell a story about being chased, pecked and worse at the hands of a wicked rooster.  Then there are the roosters who are on testosterone overdrive and spend all their waking hours chasing the hens….some go so far as to scratch out all the hen’s feathers in the act.  Many city folks can not have roosters because of their crowing. 

This is where the perils of being a rooster start.   What to do with that rooster you don’t want. In grandma’s time he would become dinner. 

Many who take on chickens today have not thought seriously about their livestock endeavor. Today our animal shelters and rescue organizations are becoming overrun with unwanted roosters.   Many of them no-kill groups are forced to keep these boys the rest of their lives in cages as a flock of roosters is not a happy family. These groups are questioning the wisdom of backyard flocks because of this unwillingness to deal with another unwanted critter.   Like many of you I don’t really want a rooster, but if I end up with one or three I am prepared for decisions I will need to make.   I wish I could send them off to be butcher, pay some money and they come home ready to eat in plastic bag.   My reality is I live in cattle country and there is not a chicken processor to be found.   If I am lucky I will find a family who wants some cheap eating and take my birds for their table.  If not I will be butchering a rooster or two soon.  Not my idea of a good time, but I think saying thanks to my birds for their substance they will provide is indeed a good way to honor their lives.