Even in the brooder Barry was a little character. We immediately correctly identified him as a rooster, and he quickly became Patricia’s favourite. He always came to her, didn’t mind getting picked up and was a fun little cockerel to work and play with.
I used to call him Bogan Barrry, because he was a different breed than all our other chickens, but when we did our investigations, it turned out he is an excellent specimen of Coronation Sussex. Because none of our other Sussexes are Coronations (they’re light and buff Sussexes), I often raised the topic of selling or swopping Barry in order to keep our breeds pure, but every time that thought was squashed by “the team” – they all adored Barry.
Since they started free-ranging, Barry used to be my loyal working companion. He used to leave the flock and come hang out wherever I was working. We had a very good relationship. He had a good sense when not to come too close – like when I was working with heavy machinery or tools like pick axes and spades, or when an area was fenced off – even with only a 1ft high rabbit fence, but he was also always right there to grab the morsels that appeared – he was a master at catching fast-moving crickets (which there were many of when we lifted the weed mats), he was the first chicken to enjoy squashed snails, and of course, earthworms were always a great treat. It was fun having him around when I worked. He even seemed to respect the new small seedlings.
But then one day things changed – quite quickly actually. Right about the time the bigger pullets started getting “big enough”, he seems to have had a change in attitude. He still came and hung around when I worked at Dreamland, but his attitude was different. It wasn’t that loyal friendship type of hanging out anymore, it was more an “I’m watching you” kind of hanging out. That little sidewise strut showing occasionally. He didn’t allow you to stroke him anymore either.
And then one day he started chasing the children – first Micaela, and then a few days later Markus too. And that was a wrong thing to do. The children absolutely adore the chickens and the ducks and love to play with them, feed them and care for them. They always took their little friends over to play with and watch the chooks and ducks. However, since Barry started chasing and attacking them, life at Dreamland has changed. Micaela was too scared to even go there, and only said hi to the ducks and the Sussex pullets (half of which are “hers”) during those short periods before the “big chickens” are let out or after they have already been closed in their coop. As a result, the other chickens and ducks were also slowly getting wilder as they didn’t receive the personal and loving interaction anymore. Markus is not so easily put off, but his approach had also changed. He was always on guard with a spray bottle or an umbrella to fend Barry off, but he still treats the other chickens with the same care and love. But Barry was spoiling it all a bit. And we have a suspicion that Barry’s bad behaviour may also have influenced the other roosters to an extent.
We also saw more and more that the smaller Scot Grey hens and the two placid little Wyandotte hens were fly-hopping the fence between Homeland and Dreamland to come free-range on the Homeland side. I was convinced they were trying to escape the roosters, but Patricia always said no they just came over to explore and socialise when she was busy outside close to that area. The young little Sussex pullets were also often sitting high on the rosemary and feijoa bushes – which fitted right in with my theory. Then one day last week, as Sunny was “busy” with one of the Wyandottes, Barry rushed forward and started pecking her hard on the head. Like really viciously hard. Repeatedly. And that was a wrong thing to do. I normally don’t intervene in their business and pecking order stuff, but this time I had to shout Barry off – that was just unacceptable. I think after that, the team believe my theory a bit more.
Since then he has tried to attack me and Patricia too, but coming from a crime-ridden country where you always had to be on the lookout, we mostly “see” or feel his attacks before they happen and diffuse him with a stern word or a step or two towards him. But beware if you let your guard down. So we started talking – well, what will we do when we open Dreamland for visits or courses? We would have had to isolate Barry, which means we would have had to put up more fences, which we don’t really want to do.
But so the upshot of it all is – Barry has been sold. Quite quickly. We needed peace and order restored among the chooks. But most importantly, the kids need to be able to play with and care for the chooks as always.
Fortunately we found a good home for Barry. The lady where we got our little Buff Sussex pullets from was looking for a new Coronation rooster for her flock. So after 2 weeks of quarantine, Barry will be free-ranging again with his own flock of breeding Coronation hens. I think that’s a pretty good outcome for old Barry.