Roosters and Egg Production

So after much research I have learned two things:

1) A “good” rooster will protect its hens, find food and be the last into the coop at night. A good rooster can encourage an increase in egg production.
2) A “bad” rooster who harasses the hens and if too….ardent….will discourage egg production.

Today we are up to 16 eggs again…obviously our rooster was, despite how pretty he looked, a BAD ROOSTER.

The Rooster is Dead!

Chris is busily working on an account of our trip, leaving me with the sad task of informing all who care that our rooster died several days before we left.

It was a rather shocking discovery for Chris. He opened the coop door and there he was; dead on the floor! We’re not entirely sure what happened. Several extended family members reckon the hens took revenge. I’m not unconvinced this was the case as the rooster was rather forward and frequent in his attention to the brood, leading my brother to give him a title that belongs in the courtrooms of those charged with acts of certain kinds of assault. The rest is best left unsaid.

I can’t say the hens appreciated the attention; instinct wasn’t always in play as I did see two of them turn and chase him once when he got too close. The girls in our house didn’t like him much as he was quite aggressive toward us. I, at least, could see his value in our springtime venture of our home-based mini hatchery. Katie and Helen used his presence to advantage, wrangling out of chores as the coop is right next to the barn.

Stephen, on the other hand, simply liked having the rooster around. It added a male presence to the farmyard that was severely lacking (all the sheep are female).

Interestingly, we have been trying for a month or so now to figure out how to optimize our egg production since fall came upon us. We are using lights and keeping the hens in the coop a bit longer each day to encourage laying. We didn’t want to add chemical crumbles since we moved the flock to organic wheat (locally grown). Up until we left last week our egg production from the 25 hens had fallen to about 6 per day.

Yesterday when we returned….10 eggs! Today: 13 eggs!

Could the rooster’s presence have had something to do with our lowered egg production???

For now we won’t replace him since we weren’t planning on incubating eggs until late spring. But I think I’ll do a bit more research on egg production and roosters…

Poultry Harvesting is Complete

Yesterday we harvested our 21 remaining Cornish Giants. As we neared the day, I began using the word “harvesting” instead of “butchering” to offset some of the dread I was beginning to feel. I love the power of words…it helped a bit!

We enlisted the help of experienced poultry harvesters, Mike and Linda Casey. Mike and Linda are Burkholder family friends from way back. They managed to borrow a plucker and a butchering cone from neighbours and showed up with an array of other equipment to make the job easier.

Chris and I decided we would not post photos of our harvesting day; there are plenty of sites on the internet that describe and show the process in graphic detail if anybody wishes to know more.

It wasn’t as bad as either one of us thought. I surprised myself by remembering a fair bit from my childhood. Chris managed very well for his first time harvesting his own meat. (He’s chopped up a fair bit of his own food in the last year but vegetables don’t have the risk of inducing sqeamishness or trauma like having to butcher an animal has!)

The chicken coop has now be completely claimed by the laying hens and we will soon start to build roosts for them.

Our general feeling about our meat raising experiment? Probably not cost effective compared to store bought meat, but we certainly know what we fed them so there is some security there.

We were also unsettled by the way Cornish Giants have been bred and will probably not raise this breed again. They grew so big, so fast, that they experienced leg problems, leading us to isolate four of them for the last month. We had to feed and water them separately which was a real pain. These birds also do not have a sense of self preservation and would simply stand still while a layer hen pecked a hole right through the skin and fat to their bone. That, for me, was most unsettling.

This farming foray DID put us closer to our food and that in itself was a great education. It does make you think very much about all the issues regarding meat production.

For now we are going to enjoy the next year raising layers and harvesting eggs. We will defer the decision about getting meat birds again until next year.

Over the next few days we collect our lambs. I have taken the kids to the credit union and they have filled out their withdrawal slips and have tucked their purchase money away in a safe place!