Grit Blogs > Backyard Baers

Case of the Mistaken Hens

By Benjamin Baer


Tags: Benjamin Baer, Virginia, Chickens, Hens, Roosters, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Sexing Chicks, Pullets,

Benjamin BaerAs previously blogged, I started off with three Rhode Island Reds; the chicks were about a week old when we got them. About a month later, I saw an ad for some Barred Plymouth Rock pullets. That’s my favorite breed, and while I was only aiming for four, I figured we could handle a flock of five. So I went ahead and pulled the trigger. I kept them separated from the Reds for about the first month. I knew I was going to have to finesse the introductions, and wanted to wait until the BPRs were old enough to hold their own versus the older — and already established — flock of Reds.

I introduced them slowly and only left them together for short periods of time. There was the initial, “Who the heck are these two?” from my Reds, but for the most part they seemed fine. I was surprised to see the BPRs weren’t backing down. As a matter of fact, it almost seemed like the BPRs strolled into the coop ready to own the place.

“Okay,” I thought, “I guess these BPRs are some alpha ladies and the Reds aren’t so much. That’s okay.” Over time, stark differences presented themselves between the Reds and the BPRs. The Reds were outgoing and social, liked to be petted and held, and greeted me at the coop door. Meanwhile, the BPRs wanted nothing to do with me and always seemed bothered by my presence in the coop. They also weren’t exactly friendly with the three Reds. In addition, I started to notice that, despite being a few weeks younger than the Reds, the BPRs were taller, and each of their combs and waddles were noticeably larger and darker than the Reds. At this point, I started to become concerned that a couple of cockerels had infiltrated my flock.

Then one morning when I had just fed them and was walking back to the house, I heard a soft “cock-a-doodle-dooooo.” At that point, my fears were realized: I’ve got at least one rooster. I did go into a state of denial for about a week or so, thinking, “Maybe this is just a hen acting like a rooster? That happens, right?” And I’ve read it actually does happen, but it doesn’t happen often. The crowing continued, however, so I decided to take pictures of the BPRs and get the opinions of some folks who know far more than I about chickens. And much to my surprise, I didn’t have one rooster ... I actually had two roosters.

Now let me say, I would love to have one rooster — not so much two, but one rooster would be a great addition to the flock. However, my neighbors would kill me. As much as I wanted to keep at least one of them, I knew it wasn’t an option. So came decision time: what to do with them. I didn’t want to butcher them; I plan to get to a point where I can safely and humanely butcher a chicken, but I’m not there yet. And my biggest fears were not killing it correctly, where it suffered, or not butchering it correctly, where I ended up spoiling the meat and it went to waste. Expecting the worst, I immediately started researching butchering chickens. I watched videos on YouTube (it’s amazing how you can learn anything through the internet) and started contacting local farms, asking if I could come watch them butcher some chickens.

But, before I put on my apron on and started sharpening my knives, I decided to contact the person I bought them from and see if she could take them back. I reached out via email, and within a few days she responded apologizing for mistaking their gender and said she was happy to take them back. I breathed a giant sigh of relief — I don’t have to learn to and successfully butcher two roosters. Not yet at least.

I drove out to her farm early on a Saturday morning to find she was running a bird paradise. She had peacocks, turkeys, roosters, hens, you name it. Those two boys probably felt like they were moving from a trailer in the woods to the Biltmore on nice, green, rolling pastures. I told her, “Be careful, these guys are a little feisty.” And she gave me a look as if to say, “I know just the thing.” She had several chicken coops and took me to one behind her house that included several birds, one of which was the largest rooster I have ever seen. She said, “This guy will teach these two boys how to behave.” I let the two BPRs in, and they immediately went up to test the big guy. They probably won’t be doing that again for a while, as he was quick to put them in their place.

It turned out to be quite the learning experience for me. It was my first dealing with roosters, and I had great conversations with the woman that owned the farm. She definitely knew her stuff, and gave me some free education.

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The two roosters before their departure ... probably plotting to take-over the coop from me ...