A Tale of Two Roosters

Posted by on Oct 15, 2010 in Chickens, Farm Blog | 23 comments

Until this last spring, we’d never had roosters at Curbstone Valley, and our intent was to keep it that way, but our last order of chicks resulted in not one, but TWO resident roosters.

Our roosters, Siegfried (left) and Frodo (right)

There are pros and cons to having roosters around.  Most people are usually concerned about the noise, as roosters crow, often.  We’re used to the crowing, and actually I rather like listening to them both crow during the day, but there’s more to consider with roosters than how much noise they make.

Our two roosters seem to be at opposite ends of the personality spectrum.  Every rooster is different, and even hand-raising them was no guarantee of ending up with docile, friendly roosters.  For us, one is aggressive, the other isn’t.  One enjoys having people in his midst, the other can’t stand to be near us.  It’s difficult to believe that 29 weeks ago, they were just little chicks, difficult to tell apart from each other.  Now there’s no question who is who.

Frodo

Frodo, our Dark Brahma rooster, is docile, and very easy to handle.

We love having Frodo on the farm

However, as a Brahma, knowing that once full grown he would become a very large force to be reckoned with, we went out of our way to handle Frodo every day.

We handle Frodo every day

The idea of having a large breed rooster around with an attitude, wasn’t very appealing, so the extra handling has definitely paid off.

I won’t romanticize it though, Frodo is still a rooster, and does demand a certain level of respect when being handled, but he’s not out to start a fight unprovoked.

Thankfully Frodo hasn’t (yet) taken to challenging me, or anyone else, head on, and is usually content to just mind his own business, or will follow us around in the hopes of scoring a snack (he has a real penchant for the crusts from homemade bread).

Frodo is very easy to bribe with a tasty treat

He’s actually a lot of fun to have around, and now that his tail has grown back in, he’s also very handsome too.

If all roosters were like Frodo, I wouldn’t mind having two around.  But then there’s…

Siegfried

After Frodo was removed from the main flock, Siegfried quickly asserted himself, and staked his claim to the fiefdom.

Siegfried is becoming quite scary

As the weeks progress, Siegfried is becoming significantly more aggressive.  We have bad days, and days that weren’t quite as bad as the day before, but it’s getting to the point that opening the coop each morning is not something I greatly look forward to.  He’s now the first out of the door in the morning, and immediately locks his sights on me.  This morning he wouldn’t even let me out of the run.

It starts with a stare-down, followed by some puffing up, and a bluff, and ultimately, a head-on challenge.

This time Siegfried was just bluffing

He’s making it clear that I’m not welcome near his hens. We’ll have to see about that.

Except for a few small bruises on my ankles, the damage thus far has been minor, but Siegfried’s spurs aren’t grown in yet, and too blunt to cause any significant injury.  He doesn’t seem to know that though, and each day he acts like he’s sure that today is the day he’ll finally see me off.  I always keep one eye on him when feeding the hens, and am now careful to never to turn my back on him, as he will, and has, seized such opportunities to instigate an attack.

Siegfried has been difficult to handle for months, and as a result, we don’t pick him up at all unless absolutely necessary. That’s where we would do things differently if another rooster ever takes residence on the farm.  The extra handling Frodo has received seems to have made an enormous difference.  Catching Siegfried now is simply not fun. I can catch him if I need to, and a few weeks ago I needed to after he managed to cut his comb in the run.  He was bleeding, and the pullets were too interested, so I cornered him, grabbed his feet right as they flew toward my face, and pulled him out.  I don’t recommend this method of catching a rooster, and next time for my own safety, I’ll resort to using a hook.

It’s clear that for Siegfried, being picked up and handled is a very stressful, and no doubt humiliating experience, but with a firm grip, he did calm down long enough to let me clean him up. If you’ve never picked up a rooster that doesn’t want to be handled, I can tell you from experience that they’re remarkably strong for their size.

In the ‘pro’ column for Siegfried though, he’s tough, watchful, and willing to stand his ground when necessary, whereas Frodo, in the presence of danger, is more likely to hide in the shrubbery.  Siegfried is very attentive to the pullets, and is frequently seen directing them all back into the coop if a raptor flies overhead, or a mysterious mammal is heard crashing around in the bushes.  He’s like a feathered watchdog, an extra pair of eyes to help keep the rest of the flock safe, and he’s fearless.

Siegfried does an excellent job of keeping his girls safe

However, when children are on the farm, Siegfried is secured in the run, and that’s now non-negotiable.  He seems especially interested in challenging visitors, especially our shortest ones.  Siegfried has come dangerously close to my face with his feet on more than one occasion, but I can hold my own.  Around children, he’s simply a liability.

The older he gets, the more aggressive he is becoming, despite our best efforts to keep him (and ourselves) calm.  Bribery doesn’t work with Siegfried, he seems too obsessed with proving who’s boss.  Ultimately however, we have the final say as to whether Siegfried remains king of his domain, and at the moment his reign here is tenuous at best.

Perhaps the biggest downside to having a rooster, at least one turned out with the hens here, is they can be particularly hard on the girls.

This Black Australorp is missing feathers on the back of her head

Recommendations are usually to have at least 10 hens per rooster.  Siegfried has 15 pullets with him at all times, but unfortunately, despite having plenty to choose from, he seems to have two favorites that he’s obsessing on.  A small Buff Orpington, and a once beautiful Black Australorp, who are both now starting to show significant signs of wear-and-tear.

The same Black Australorp as above now has a large bald spot on her back

Some of the pullets have become very adept at running away from Siegfried, and one Golden Laced Wyandotte often attacks him if he gets too close, but these two are quite docile, and Siegfried clearly takes advantage.

Siegfried's other favorite, a Buff Orpington, is missing a number of feathers on her back

For us, we have to decide whether keeping Siegfried is worth it.  We’d like to keep a closed system on the farm, as much as possible, and like the idea of rearing our own replacement pullets.  However, it’s not worth personal injury, or excess stress and injury to the girls.

We don’t regret having had both Siegfried and Frodo here.  If we’d only had Siegfried, we might have sworn off roosters for life.  If we’d only had Frodo, we’d have been under the impression that roosters aren’t nearly as bad to have around as some of the horror stories we’ve heard.

It’s clear that Frodo, who had a lot more attention from us after all the drama in his early life, has turned out to be significantly more manageable than Siegfried, but in fairness that’s not Siegfried’s fault.  It also seems apparent that the attitude of a rooster in the presence of pullets or hens is quite different, as he has something in his domain worth defending, and so he will defend it, even against us.

Regardless, having roosters on the farm does significantly alter the coop dynamic, and sometimes we miss the days of only having the girls around. Life was so much simpler then…

23 Comments

  1. Well, despite their trouble, they are both amazingly beautiful birds and it has been fun watching them grow up!

  2. Hmmm…this gives me a lot to think about. It would upset me quite a bit to see bald spots on my pullets because of a rooster, but then again the rooster is good for predator protection. Tough choice. Frodo is really looking good now. Does he still require isolation?
    Jackie´s last post…The sophistication of chickens is questioned in Carmel

    • Frodo only needs to be isolated from Siegfried. He mostly hangs out with us, and during the day I let him out to forage around, but on the opposite side of the electric fence from Siegfried. Siegfried doesn’t respect me, or Frodo very much, but he DOES respect the fence ;)

  3. I have some friends that have multiple roosters. They all seem to do OK. They will get rid of aggressive ones though.

    We currently have a rooster. He hasn’t started crowing yet, but he sure is pretty. I try to handle him some, but he’s not friendly at all. He’s not mean, just not friendly. Our chicken coop is pretty close to our neighbors though, so when the crowing begins he’s going to have to go.
    Dog Island Farm´s last post…Fall Garden Chores

    • I think if their growth rates/appearance had been similar, and we’d hadn’t had to pull Frodo out because of earlier injuries, they would have had a better chance to establish their own hierarchy between them before the got to the age of being able to do real damage to each other. Although I’ve often seen where roosters still won’t get along, even raised side-by-side. So much seems to depend on the personality of the rooster/breeding.

  4. Uh oh…..I think I know where this story is headed.

    Sigfried! Shape up, or you’re gonna get re-named Stew!
    Lisa´s last post…word

    • We hope we don’t have to rename him Stew…but you’re right, he needs to shape up! Hopefully Siegfried and I can come to an understanding…soon.

  5. It would be hard to part with a bird you raised but let me share my story. Your story is so engrossing and made me relate in a giant sideways leap. Made my morning.

    While reading, I was reminded of my Moluccan cockatoo, CreamCheez. Don’t let the cute name fool you. He is all rooster. Sweet as pie most of the year, but breeding season is in March in his part of the world and he is territorial rooster all the way.

    He was a wild caught bird over 26 years ago and as an adult, probably had his share of hens. He has long talon, that would be dangerous if I did not trim them. He will fly at your face when he gets the urge and and that beak has over 900 psi of biting power. At least Siegfried has a tiny beak.

    Well, that image Siegfried bluffing is CreamCheez through and through. Same wing-spread, head cocked stance. If buff does not eliminate me, then this bird, who weighs less than a pound attacks. I hate breeding season. He has almost made the stew pot many times.

    • Unfortunately for roosters, I’m not sure there’s a ‘season’ per se. You’re right though, raging rooster hormones definitely are at the root of this. :P

  6. Wow…when I saw the backs of those hens, Nazareth’s ‘Love Hurts’ immediately sprang to mind LOL.

    Glad human men are usually a bit more gentle…can imagine if we chicks (no pun intended) showed up to work with patches of hair missing? And our co-workers would say, ‘Ooh, you must have had a hot date last night!’
    Kyna´s last post…The Social Pages Say Ive Got The Biggest Balls Of All

  7. Clare, no matter how much hope we have, I am guessing we know the outcome for Siegfried.

    When I was a youngster and living with my immigrant grandmother our ** experiences on the farm were varied. ** (me and my 2 cousins)

    When we were back east several weeks ago visiting family, I reminded one of my cousins about the “goat” incident… but that for another time. Are you getting goats? ;)

    My grandmother’s chicks produced a rooster as with your experience, and we were surprised by its aggressiveness and intelligence.

    In the afternoon when we walked home from school and as we approached and then rounded the building adjoining our property, the rooster would be there waiting. As we walked down the hill toward the house, he would charge, attack. Fortunately none of us were severely hurt, but my grandmother grew weary of having to meet us at 3:30 pm each day and with a broom and nursing our scrapes and bruises. She was a wise woman.
    Diana´s last post…SkyWatch Friday and Sharp-shinned Hawk

    • We are considering a couple of Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, just for our own milk and cheese. Is there something I should know? :P

      Your Grandmother sounds very wise. Mine was too. If she was here…Siegfried would have been gone long ago! ;)

  8. I am so glad to see Frodo looking so smart! He has a lovely turquoise sheen to his feathers at times. Good luck with S. he seems very protective of what he considers his girls. Love the video of F. but the one of S. did not quite work for me. Life is more lively with girls and boys about. This is a very helpful post for anyone wanting to raise chickens. ;>)
    Carol´s last post…Blog Action Day 2010 WATER

    • Getting video of Siegfried is a challenge, as he’s usually charging me, and my camera doesn’t have very good image stabilization. :P

      Probably the most important thing we’ve learned is if you want to keep your roosters calm, handle them often from the moment they arrive, and perhaps consider keeping them separated from the girls, at least some of the time.

  9. Very interesting read, Curbstone. My grandparents always had chickens, as they were the self-sustaining sort. Let me tell you, I had a bad encounter (or two) with a rooster back when I was about 9. Lived in mortal fear of the beasts after that. Which is why…today, I know very little about chickens considering I actually lived with my grandparents for a year. I am taking notes as usual.

    (Still love your Frodo! He is so pretty and so sweet.)
    Floridagirl´s last post…Common to You- Plant Snob Eye Candy to Me

  10. Clare, I am always fascinated by your rooster tales. Since I can’t imagine every taking on chickens myself, I’m getting a vicarious education. Would it be possible to get a rooster with Frodo’s temperament and Sigfried’s vigilance, or is it Sigfriend’s highly honed protective tendencies that make him so aggressive? -Jean
    Jean´s last post…The Last Flowers of Fall- GBBD- October 2010

  11. Dear Curbstone, I was totally fascinated by this post. I find it hard to imagine having chickens without a rooster. Your roosters are very handsome, especially Frodo. What a difficult decision you have to make. Please keep us posted. Pam x
    Pam’s English Garden´s last post…Survivors of the First Frost for October GBBD

  12. Dear Clare – Frodo is looking so good these days – quite the star. Is he man enough yet for his own girls?

    I’ve always admired Siegfried’s good looks but have noticed that stern sideways look he always gives. Had no idea Rooosters could be this violent – his name means Victory Peace. Sieg-fried chicken would be such a shame though.

    Laura
    PatioPatch´s last post…Zephrs and Zones in British Weather

  13. Clare, I truly enjoyed reading about your roosters. I especially love the video clips…Siegfried’s crowing is glorious! I understand your dilemma…it sounds as though Siegfried is a wonderful leader and protects his brood with a passion. However, on the flip side, roosters can be quite the enemy, which is not what you want at your home. It seems there’s no happy medium for this fiesty fellow. And Frodo seems the perfect sweet bird, although not the leader a brood might need. I’m very partial to Frodo…what a good boy!
    Kimberly´s last post…Reaching Out

  14. Dear Clare, As you may imagine, i have so enjoyed seeing Frodo look so handsome and so healthy. He had such a hard time at the beginning but he really is a showstopper now!

    As for Siegfried….he really is a handful! Perhaps his days just have to be numbered?
    Edith Hope´s last post…A Weblog Comes of Age

  15. Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. But, Frodo gets my vote, he is so handsome and sweet. I think I would have to draw the line at having a roosters feet headed for my face. Be careful!
    charsgardening´s last post…Back Again

  16. Frodo is just such a dreamboat. His video is a joy!! He’s so glossy and healthy. You should be very proud of his condition – I think you have a real show bird there. Siggie sure is on thin ice… I would not blame you for movin’ him down the road. Our eyeballs are just so fragile, and he’s a real devil now. What about some wing-clipping for Sig? That would slow his attacks down and perhaps ease the stress on the hens? But he’d still be an excellent watchdog for the girls… just an idea. I shudder to think of being caught in an attack!! Sig is not clear on who is writing the mortgage checks, no?!!
    Bonnie Story´s last post…Im the happiest gardener in the whole USA