It’s amazing how much there is to learn about chooks! I think we now only finally know what exactly we’re working with. Well, so how did the kids do in their first attempt at guessing the chickens’ genders?
With the Sussexes, they only had ¼ correct. Millie is not a hen, but a little rooster. (More about Millie in a future post.) Barry is big rooster and was correctly identified – he is going to be massive. I always thought he was a bogan, because his neck feathers aren’t the distinct black of the Light Sussex. Turns out he is great Coronation Sussex specimen. Sunny, also a rooster, has beautiful clear bright black and white colours. Even though he is ever so slightly smaller, he seems to dominate the bogan of late.
Micaela’s pet chicken, called Fluffball, initially thought by all to be a Wyandotte hen, is growing into a big strong Buff Sussex rooster. So now you have to call “Fluffball” in this strong masculine voice (without laughing)! So far, the time she had spent with Fluffball is really paying off. He is so tame, he comes to you out of his own accord and he seems to be the cleverest of the lot too. While Barry and Sunny may have little skirmishes, or may get side-tracked by potential titbits in the bushes, Fluffball is the one who knows where the home base is and who normally leads the flock home. And without ever bullying the others, Fluffball always gets some of the best food. A born leader. But so, we have no Sussex hens… or rather, we had no Sussex hens.
With the Wyandottes, the kids had it totally wrong. Rockwell and Sock, named by Markus and Will respectively as roosters, are turning into beautiful little silver laced hens. Sock, Markus’ pet, gets a lot of personal attention. She regularly gets tours to visit the ducks or do something around the yard, often riding around in the parrot-on-the-shoulder style, which she seems to enjoy. However, all the petting and attention still doesn’t make it easy to get her or Rockwell into the coop at night – she loves to hide out under the bushes, that little one!
With the Scot Greys, I find it hard to tell them apart. Especially the hens all look so similar. The kids still call each one by name, according to them with a high degree of precision and confidence, but I’m not sure whether they’re not just winging it… Anyway, they initially guessed 2 roosters and 7 hens, which turned out to be the case. So, that’s a real nice ratio. (But I still suspect some of the Greys get their names swopped around on a daily basis.) A real gentle bunch, our little Scot Grey family.
Debates don’t always solve it
So the Scot Greys are fine. But we have 3.5 Sussex roosters, all of different types, 2 Wyandotte hens and the intention is to try and breed pure-breed chickens. Makes sense, hey? The obvious thing to do would be to re-house Barry somewhere – because we have a council limitation on how many roosters we may have – and to get one Wyandotte rooster and some Sussex hens. Now this issue has been debated to death at home, in the car and around the dinner table. The problem is, we cannot get to make a clear, non-emotional decision, because each person has adapted a different bird, from a different breed that is, as their “pet”.
Righting the gender equality
So at first I put a post out on the Ballarat Poultry Buy Swop and Sell page that we were looking for a silver laced Wyandotte rooster (this was before we re-checked our council regulations) and some Light Sussex pullets. I got a lot of responses for other types of Wyandotte roosters, as you do, and some for Light Sussex pullets. With the council regulations and some people refusing to let Barry go, we passed on the Wyandotte roosters and so on a stinking hot 40+⁰C day I was driving an hour up north to fetch three 3-week old Light Sussex pullets from Elisabeth Downey in Wallace. It was too hot to ask her to show me her setup, and she had the 3 little pullets all ready in a cage under the aircon, as you do on these hot days. So we had a nice little yarn – I learnt lots! – and then it was the hot dusty road back, with the 3 little birds being serenaded in French by Francis Gabrel on the way back. (Patricia couldn’t understand why I HAD to drive at the hottest time on the hottest day, but it made perfect sense to me. I’d much rather be in the air-conditioned rattletrap than to try and get things done in the heat!)
It wasn’t a week later, when Micaela and I was scheduled to have our daddy-daughter day near the end of school holidays, that I saw a lady’s post advertising Buff Sussex chicks of various ages. So after Micaela had her first surf “attempt” (and she got to ride a few foamies) and a nice brunch at our favourite beach café, she sacrificed the rest of her special day to go and fetch some hens for her pet rooster. So as the temperature was heading up to 37⁰C, we were on the road heading North again. Jodie Extra in Kyneton had some 3-week old chicks, as well as some 7-week old pullets. She was really organised – she had a little rooster of the same batch in with the pullets so we could clearly see the difference. I chose one and Micaela chose two (even though we were only supposed to get 2…) Jodie showed us around her place – she has a really nice setup of pens where the different breeds free-range under her fruit trees. That’s when I saw a fully grown pure bred Buff Sussex rooster – the little pullets’ “dad” – for the first time. He is of enormous proportions. I’m not joking when I say he is bigger than a goose drake! (And I’ve seen some big goose drakes over in France.) If our 3.5 Sussex roosters are all going to get that big, we better quickly ramp up on chicken food production. (Note to self: you better keep those big Sussex roosters out of the delicate forest garden at Dreamland…) Anyway we had a really interesting chat with Jodie, and once again I learnt so much! Micaela hates long road trips, but she sat in the back all the way home with the little chookies and played them the same calming song over and over and over, and over again… It was weird, in a way that same song over and over kept me awake through the long drive. It was late the afternoon of a long hot day when a very happy little girl arrived home with three new pets and some hens for her rooster.
We are now “almost” over our council limit with respect to how many poultry we may have. The tally is 4 Cayuga ducks, yet of unknown gender, 9 Scott Greys (2R & 7H), 4½ Light Sussex (1½R & 3H), 4 Buff Sussex (1R & 3H), 1 Coronation Sussex rooster (bogan!) and 2 Silver Laced Wyandotte hens. So 24½ fowl in total.
In the next two chicken-related posts, I’ll describe why I refer to ½ a Light Sussex rooster above, as well as how our segregation and integration efforts are progressing.