I introduced a new roo to the flock yesterday. Our old rooster, Big Boy, had been attacked by a stray dog a few weeks ago and has never been able to recover. He seemed to be on the mend at first, the feathers were growing back in, his comb scarred over, and he limped less but he recently took a turn for the worse. He was no longer able to walk without obvious pain and spent his day standing, tail and head tucked down, near the coop door. He no longer foraged or serviced his ladies. For a rooster, this is no way to live life and I could no longer allow him to suffer.
Carlos, the new roo, was introduced to the flock slowly. A freebie from craigslist, he came from a home where dogs and ducks ran free, which worked out perfectly for us. Still, I wanted to be cautious about how I added him to the flock. The first night he spent in a cage near the flock so they could get used to him. The second morning I sprinkled seed in his cage and around his cage so they could eat communally. When they all seemed calm, I opened the cage and let him out. As predicted, Red, who is our HCIC (head chick in charge) let him know who exactly was running this flock.
She's a sassy little redhead, this one. What she lacks in body size, she makes up for in attitude. If I don't deliver the feed fast enough in the morning, it's Red giving me a peck on the back of the leg to hurry me along.
The fight needed to happen but I was ready to step in should it get out of hand. They needed to determine the (literal) pecking order, and I hoped it would be Carlos. He asserted himself during the brief tussle but from an outsider's view, Red won that fight. Carlos shook himself off and after a little bit of sulking, rejoined the flock, hanging at the outer edges. He became more comfortable as the day went on, and I was pleased to see him protect the flock by growling a warning as a raven flew over head, sending the girls running for cover. By night he was up on the roost surrounded by his ladies and life in the flock was as it should be.
Big Boy was sent to the big sleep on the same day that the eggs in the incubator were set to hatch. Sadly, not a one has pipped and I fear the whole batch is a loss. Given Big Boy's iffy "abilities" and an incubator that was giving me fits, we didn't start out with the greatest odds. If Carlos manages to convince the rest of the girls that he's the man, we'll try again in a few weeks.
As romantic as it can seem, these lovely birds wandering about, scratching and pecking bugs, the reality of keeping chickens isn't always so. They come with responsibility, and illness, and injury, and death, and lots of poop, but for me it's worth the work and occasional heartbreak.
I guess it was a good thing I was feeling like superman yesterday, and I should really try to feel invincible every day, because you never know what life is going to throw at you.