14 May 2009

Outcast, Desert Island

Old Rocky Rooster, once Leader of the Pack, King of the Heap is now merely Rooster Emeritus. He's been cast out by one young lad who is now the Royal Highness. Not to mention Twice the Wideness. In plain English, Rocky has been ousted by one of the younger roosters -- one of the Giants that Jayne has bred over the years. (It's reached the point where we think we've bred them just a bit too large, as the Hens definitely take some strain from the Giants, and we'll be backing off to something a bit more reasonable in size. Some of them are larger than shop-bought Turkeys!)

Rocky's has a good innings, though. He's been Leader of the Flock for about 7 years, now. Who knew that chickens could live so long! Now he spends his days all alone, far from the flock, with not a single Hen for companionship or comfort.

I wonder, though, whether he would have lived so long had we not interfered... As the years have gone by we've always culled the younger roosters. The theory goes that, once they're past their fast-growth stage, they're just eating a lot of food, so unless we particularly want to keep them for breeding, or for the sake of Flock Dynamics, into the pot with them! And, because Rocky has been such a good Marshal Of The Hens, we've always hung on to him. Is it our interference that's kept him on for so long? By removing the younger (and larger) roosters, we've been removing his competitors. Perhaps he would have been cast out much earlier in his life, but for our meddling.

And that thought leads me to another: I wonder how much is known about Chicken Flock Dynamics in nature? After all, the chicken factories have no interest in such knowledge, and how many All Natural Chicken Flocks are there left in the world?

Who says you can't teach an Old Chook new tricks, though? At about 5 every afternoon I go to the feed bin to collect chookfood for the evening and morning feeds. Rocky has learned to hang around there at the right time, and persuades me to give him a private feed, away from the beedy eye of the new Flock Leader who would otherwise chase him off.

The real reason I see that he gets a good feeding is that I don't want him totally shrunken and starving when it comes time to put him in the pot; something I must attend to very soon.

Update: Forgot to mention: The "Desert Island" reference is to the ongoing rain shortage. After a decent amount of rain in April, May looks like the drought is not quite ready to let go of us yet... :-(

Update 2:Jayne believes that Rocky is more like 9 or 10 years old, rather than the 7 (or 8) that I thumb-sucked in the post above. Most likely she's right!

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