Sunday, August 9, 2009

Into The Sunset

We sent the kids with my parents yesterday morning. They went to breakfast at Sugarcakes on The Square (I was sorry to miss that trip!), shoe-shopping, the mall, to Target and Costco. While they were doing the last minute back-to-school errands, Dean and I drove the hour plus that it takes to get to Cedartown. As it turns out, our suspicions about the real sex of Nadine and Bella was correct. They are roosters. Or more correctly, cockerels. They won't be considered roosters until they're 12 months old. We figured out what was going on very quickly when the kids were wondering out loud why "Bella" was trying to get piggyback rides from the other hens!

As heart-breaking as it was, we had to take both the boys - now called Ned and Beau - back to the breeder where we got them. Where we live, it's against zoning to have roosters. Most likely because of the noise they make once mature, although we hadn't heard even an attempt at crowing from either of our fellas. (We figured that it was better to go ahead and return them before we started getting complaining phone calls!)

There were lots of tears from the kids (and more than a few from the adults) and a flurry of last-minute snapshots to put in Ella's memory book. I had called Darren, the breeder, the day before explaining our situation. Our main concern was that the boys get to live a good life rather than being killed and eaten immediately. Darren assured us that he would be able to find someone who'd be glad to have our boys without the threat of execution looming over their fine feathered heads.

Once we got to the feed store that Darren and his wife own and showed them the birds, Darren did a double-take, pronounced them handsome and announced that HE would be keeping the cockerels. *sigh* Sounds like they'll get to stay alive and spend many years getting piggyback rides from the hens in the poulty yard at Darren's farm! It was more than we could've hoped for and helped assuage the guilt we were feeling about having to give them up.

As we were getting ready to leave, we were offered the choice of more chicks or a rather bedraggled chicken in exchange for our boys. We hadn't figured on bringing any more birds home, but on seeing the sweet girl in the pen, we decided to take her. And honestly, we figured that it might help the kids to adjust to the loss of Beau and Ned if they had someone new to baby and love on. Sophie has lived a hard life in her first 14 weeks. She was crammed in a pen with 40 other chickens and is missing most of her tail feathers. (Chickens will squabble and pull out each others' feathers when they are in cramped, overcrowded conditions.)

Darren's wife bought several pullets from the man who had raised them from chicks purchased from Murray McMurray hatchery (he was the one who had crammed them together, not Darren or his wife or MM hatchery) and brought them to the feed store pen to sell. There were 5 in the pen on Friday when someone came in and bought 4. Sophie was the last one left unsold and I imagine it was mostly due to her ragamuffin appearance.

Ironically, she is a Columbian Wyandotte, the kind of hen I moaned about wanting when we got Pearl (thinking she was gonna be a white Leghorn) at the chick giveaway this Easter. Pearl has turned out to be Buff Orpington (wahoo!) so we didn't have a white hen. Now we do!

Sophie will look like this once she has matured and her tail feathers grow back:

But for now, she looks like this:

See the almost complete lack of tail feathers?

And here's a comparison shot so you can see how much bigger Fifi is than Sophie.

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