It’s the last day of December (!)–and of 2016 (! to the nth). I suppose I should write up some sort of synthesis on the farm year.
I’m too tired to do so.
Instead, I’ll wrap up the series on the farm boys with the fifth entry on (Maj.) Tom, our lone, remaining, very nice rooster.
We weren’t sure if nice roosters exist. Apparently they do.
We wonder if Tom is nice because he’s a little slow and stupid. He got caught in the garden several times and couldn’t figure out how to get around the fence into the orchard to then get into the chicken coop. Maybe he’s tall, dark, and handsome–and a little slow.
We named him Tom for Tom Selleck because we were watching a series on Netflix with Tom Selleck in it. (A bit like how Hawkeye (RIP) ended up being named Hawkeye because we were watching reruns of *M*A*S*H*, although I also named her Hawkeye because she looked like a raptor–an especially ironic name given that she was killed by some sort of hawk.)
Tall, dark, handsome Selleck; tall, dark, handsome, Australorp rooster Tom. [LOL]
Ron suggested calling him “T.S.”–for Selleck and, I added, T.S. Eliot [moi–ever the nerd].
But Tom just seemed to fit. Plus it has a double meaning: “toms” are male turkeys so we liked the double entendre.
We started out thinking Tom wasn’t too sharp, but now we are starting to question our initial assessment. However, he’s almost five months old and therefore not yet full grown. Things could change.
Evidence #1: A week or so ago, Ron went out just before the auto-chicken door closed to make sure everyone ended up inside. (Yes, let’s note the irony that we spent too much money on an auto-chicken door so we wouldn’t have to manually shut the coop door every night, but we still check most nights and, on one freezing cold night, it actually got stuck half-way.) Ron saw Tom come out of the coop, call, one of the three littlest Australorp hens came running out from under the coop, ran up the ramp, and Tom followed her in. He then came back outside, called once more, waited, and then went into the coop. The auto-door shut shortly after.
Evidence #2: Tom has gotten stuck in the garden several times, once with a few hens, once with the majority of them (!?). But then we saw him problem solve another time. Some of the hens, foremost Ella (who should know better because she’s one of our first three chickens!), were stuck in the garden–a-gain. Tom called several times to them, but the girls stayed over there. Tom actually walked down the fence, went through the gate, collected them, and took them back to the coop. He got them out of the garden on time before the chicken door closed.
Maybe he’s smarter than we thought.
In his various farm research searches on that great fount of wisdom–The Internet–Ron has read that some roosters keep the hens in line–not in a mean, aggressive way. Instead, they manage the flock, help keep track of them, protect them, and also keep the hens from picking on one another. And there can be a lot of hen picking on one another…
Since Tom hit chicken puberty (still funny, still! still!!!), and J.R. 1 and J.R. 2 got out of the picture, we’ve been watching the evolving chicken flock dynamics. It doesn’t seem radically different from before. But we have noticed that the entire flock tends to get along a bit better than sometimes.
When we’ve integrated new hens into the flock previously–first the three dominiques (Heidi, Nony, and Pippi with only Nony still with us), then the three Easter eggers (Hawkeye (RIP), beautiful Cleo, and funny Beaker), then the three Golden Comets (Annie, Emma, and White Tail), and then the Australorps (Mira and Lazi, then the ebb and flow of the roosters and three little hens)–the flock dynamics have waxed and waned. Sometimes the older hens picked on the younger ones. Sometimes the younger ones just got out of the way as a preventive measure. Because Caroline spent so much of the summer by herself, broody, raising chickies, she’s actually now low on the chicken totem because she’s more of a “stranger” to them, even though they looked at each other through chicken fences for most of the summer. We feel sorry for poor Caroline.
All this to say, integrating the Australorps has been easier and more seamless–other than J.R. 1 and J.R. 2!?–than the previous integrations. It could be because there are six Australorps (Mira, Lazi, Tom, Indy, and the two other little hens) to nine older birds; that’s a higher ratio of “newbies” than some of our earlier integrations.
Or it could be because Tom is part of the picture. In general, the flock hangs out, they munch, wander, scratch, eat, and/or rest without bothering one another too much.
We’ve had, then, four roosters on the farm to date: Scruffy, J.R. 1, J.R. 2, and Tom. We really liked Scruffy, but he was an idiot, going after the older hens, and keeping them from eating and laying. That caused his fate. Although they were pretty boys, we didn’t like either J.R. 1 or J.R. 2–way too mean to the hens.
Tom, however, seems to have all the positive qualities of a rooster than–handsome, keeps an eye out, protects the hens, gentle, not aggressive with the hens when he mates with them–and few of the negative qualities. For the time being, Tom has secured his place on the farm.