I’m sure the roosters have been wondering why I’m looking at them so intently of late. What is the human doing? Is she going to feed me? (Andrew) Is she going to steal my ladies? (Thomas) Is she going to leave the gate open a crack so I can escape? (Darrington). I’ve been trying to decide who to keep. It is difficult because they’re all beautiful and Thomas and Andrew are still pretty young, so haven’t fully developed yet. They are 21 weeks old.
Darrington is 11 months old. I was intent on replacing him because he was so flighty and difficult to handle, but he has settled down somewhat and we seem to have developed a general understanding. He’s pretty chilled-out in the pen, which is not to be sniffed at, and I’m reasonably happy with how he looks so I’m not going to jump to replace him with inferior roosters. He is also the best chance I have of producing more of the exceptional green sheen and sweet personality that his father, Mr Darcy had.
Thomas has been a fast grower and an assertive, standoffish boy all along. He is big. I haven’t weighed him because our dud scales are awaiting their replacement, but he will no doubt end up bigger than Darrington, which is a good feature. He is a thriving boy. I have to keep an eye on him now because he is showing signs of potential aggression: crowing a lot when I’m around, standing between me and other chickens when I’m in there with them and dancing at hens to keep them away from me. His hormones are definitely raging. Either he will settle down or he will flip his lid if I don’t give him more handling to show him who’s boss. I like his size and his vigour but he does have a few body features that aren’t as good as they could be. He has a split in the feathers on his chest (split breast or split front), which I was hoping would disappear but it hasn’t. It’s not necessarily a death sentence, but it is a fault and it can pass on through genetics. Frodo has a split breast, so that’s where it comes from. Her daughter Tabitha does too. I would like to avoid passing on this trait. He also might be a bit long. His comb isn’t the best at the back and his eye isn’t as big and round as it should be. It would be nice to have a blue rooster to get some splash hens though.
I have a soft spot for Andrew. I always have. It’s partly because he’s the only offspring I got out of lovely Annie and partly because he’s always been a friendly dude. He can’t help but come up to me wanting to be fed. He is slower to mature than Thomas, but that shouldn’t be held against him. It’s just harder to tell how his type (shape) is going to turn out at the moment. He has a lovely big, round, dark eye, which reminds me of Annie. He has a dark beak , dark legs, all white on the bottom of his feet and he certainly doesn’t have the split breast that Thomas does. It’s a little early to make a call with Andrew. However, he is filling out more each day and starting to remind of his Grandad, Mr Darcy. So now he’s reminding me of two of my favourite former chickens and I can’t help but totally want to keep him!
The thing is, I can get more offspring out of Frodo and I have some of her eggs in the incubator at present, so there ought to be more choices down the line. I have Thomas’ sister Tabitha, who could be mated to Darrington or Andrew, and I’m reluctant to keep a rooster from Frodo if I don’t think he’s good enough, as Annie was a better looking hen than Frodo is. However, we know Annie had egg-laying issues, so health is the biggest concern I have with Andrew. There’s just no way of knowing what he’ll pass on at this stage. Frodo has great vigour and is a good layer when she’s not broody, plus is a very reliable broody, so it would be nice to pass these things along. I just have to figure out how to get the best of everything! Choosing a rooster is tough because there will only be one or two of them compared to multiple hens, and his characteristics need to be good enough to spread around the flock.
After writing all this, I thought to myself, if I had to make a decision tomorrow, I would get rid of Thomas. With a small flock and limited space I don’t want to be trying to grow on and cull a bunch of chickens that have split breasts just to get a few who don’t. And really, Thomas was always playing second fiddle to Andrew in my mind. I figured I should just do what I knew I was going to do anyway. I culled Thomas. It was good timing reducing the rooster pressure with the flock reducing anyway after selling four pullets and putting Frodo into the Corner Coop for broody duties. It’s a lot quieter here now. Thomas was rather rowdy.
So, now we’ve got Darrington and Andrew. And then we have the wildcard. The Betty boy. He is still rocking around with his hatchmate, the Paris boy. They are 13 weeks old. I wasn’t intending on keeping him, but who knows? He has a darker beak and legs than I would have expected from his light mum, Betty. I will hang on to him for a while to see how he goes. And what about the Paris boy? Being a crossbred, he was only really intended for eating once he got big enough. But then I started thinking about keeping him for the Dual Purpose Meatbird Side Project. He seems like a decent chap. He ranks lower than the Betty Boy and doesn’t have a headstrong Paris personality so far. Maybe, if I can get a chicken tractor built, or stop using the Corner Pen for brooding for a while, I could use him to mate with the Dorking girls, and take things from there. I will think about that in the coming weeks. I’m not making the decision-making process easier, am I?