Siegfried is Superseded

Posted by on Jan 21, 2011 in Chickens, Farm Blog | 40 comments

In A Tale of Two Roosters we explained that our roosters, Siegfried and Frodo, couldn’t be more dissimilar in their personalities, even though they were raised together.  We also alluded to the fact that of the two, Siegfried was becoming disturbingly aggressive.

 

Siegfried in solitary confinement on Saturday, in the portable pen

Nine months ago, Siegfried arrived at Curbstone Valley with the rest of the new flock.

 

At three days old it was difficult to imagine how much of a handful he'd become

By four weeks of age Siegfried was different.  He looked different, he was more stand-offish than the others in the flock.

 

From this point forward, things would be different on the farm

By 15 weeks he asserted his dominance by pounding the stuffing out of Frodo, and became ruler of the roost after Frodo was evacuated from the coop.

 

At young age, it was clear that Siegfried was ruler of the roost

Siegfried has been phenomenally rough on the pullets from about 16 weeks, and now he’s significantly larger than the girls, he’s recently been doing some real damage to some of the pullets.  Torn combs, limping birds, sores on their backs.  Coop life has been anything but serene of late.  The girls have been getting progressively more stressed, as evidenced by their egg production dropping to as low as one egg per day, from the entire flock!  Even in winter, it shouldn’t be that low for pullets in their first year.

It's healed nicely, but Siegfried tore the back off of this Delaware's comb a couple of weeks ago

 

Last Wednesday, I walked into the run in the morning, and let the chickens out of the coop.  My morning routine has been to stand in the run with my back to the coop. Open the door, hang the feeder, and watch the chickens file out.  After giving Siegfried time to walk over to the far side of the run, keeping my back to the run wall, I slowly, and non-threateningly, walk methodically toward the run door, and exit the run, facing Siegfried with my back to the door.  Except for the occasional skirmish, it’s worked fine for the last couple of months.  It seemed we’d reached an understanding between us.  Wednesday though was different.

As soon as Siegfried exited the coop door, instead of walking across the run away from me, he strutted around the automatic waterer, and slinked under the coop, which is raised 18 inches off the ground.

Siegfried positioned himself under the coop, preparing for an ambush

The second I moved one foot (roosters obsess on feet), he launched himself in full attack mode.  As I backed up, he threw his feet up, and aimed toward my face, falling short, but striking me just below the shoulder.  I continued to make my way toward the exit, as confronting him only serves to escalate the situation, but he was like a heat-seeking missile.  I kept my hands up to protect my face, but finally, he latched hold.  Locking his feet securely around  my right knee, and hanging almost upside down, flapping furiously, he had no intention of letting go.  I tried shoving him off, but he gripped harder, until I felt one spur pierce the back of my knee through denim jeans, while the other raked across my knee cap, and into my skin. I’d had enough, and violently shook him off, before making a hasty retreat for the door.

 

Siegfried would bluff, but then he'd often follow through...

The trouble was I couldn’t close the run door fast enough as a Delaware hen would have been decapitated if I’d slammed the door shut at that moment. I couldn’t push her back without getting Siegfried in my face.  Seizing the opportunity, Siegfried charged past her, and out the run into the yard.  Great.  Fantastic.  Now he was now outside with me, and still charging me.  Every time I moved, he charged.  I admit, I considered leaving him out, maybe Bob would be back later?  But even I couldn’t do that, I have more respect for our animals than that, and besides, we’ve already had enough trouble with the Bobcats this winter.

Separated from his girls, Siegfried was clearly confused, being outside the run, with all the girls inside, he finally turned his attention away from me, and toward figuring out how to get himself back into the run.  Working with the situation at hand I moved to open the run door, he lunged again, almost as if he was attached to me with a piece of recoiling elastic string.  My patience was wearing very thin.

While Siegfried was making up his mind, deciding whether attacking me, or rejoining his ladies was more important, I took a long hard look at each of our girls.  For weeks now they’ve been looking absolutely awful.  I’m honestly embarrassed for anyone to see them at the moment, but in the interests of being honest about how life with a rooster can be, I think it’s important for anyone considering keeping a rooster, to be aware of what some are capable of.

We’ve always taken pride in how good our girls look. Our orchard hens are beautiful, but those housed with Siegfried are nothing short of disheveled.

This is one of the better looking girls, just missing a few feathers around her head

 

Parts of their combs are missing on a few, most of their combs are bloodied and scabbed, a few have almost completely bald heads.  Most have bald backs, and I recently had to treat one for almost a week with a severe lameness after a rough mating.

The back of this Australorp's head is a mess

Remember Sam?  The Black Australorp that kept Frodo company?  This is what Siegfried did to her…

Not her best look

Her back doesn't look much better

This Buff Orpington is also showing signs of significant wear and tear

Really not the most attractive look

Her back has been grazed a few times, and is now almost completely plucked

 

It’s clear I had a decision to make.  Now.  Not after Siegfried has gored one of the girls with his spurs.

If it was just a few missing feathers, and Siegfried was otherwise a reasonable rooster, his favorite pullets could be fitted with saddles to save their backs.  However, as we’ve shown before, any individual that stands out in a flock can lead to trouble.  The problem with Siegfried runs far beyond being overly amorous though.

I’ve given Siegfried so much benefit of the doubt, so many second chances, because in part I’ve accepted that coop life is different with a rooster in the mix.  Is it really just of me to cull a rooster, for being, well, a rooster?  Roosters aren’t hens.  Their personalities are larger than life, they’re assertive, and obsessive by nature, and they demand a certain level of respect.  Even if Frodo was with the girls, I have no doubt their physical condition would be similar, and he has the personality of a marshmallow compared to Siegfried.

The reality is though, that unlike Frodo, Siegfried is much more dangerous to people.  We can defend ourselves, but he’s a liability around children and dogs. He’s a hole into which we throw food, and trust me, organic feed isn’t cheap.  We don’t come close to breaking even on eggs as it is.  We tried to justify having Siegfried living at the farm on the basis that he should help to alert the girls to danger, help to keep them safe from the hoards of predators here.

 

We thought Siegfried would be good for flock security...

Bob’s encounter with Zilla clearly proved otherwise.  Siegfried showed his true colors that day, turned chicken, and hid.

I’ve tried various strategies for months to tame Siegfried down.  I’ve played both alpha and beta roles in the coop, and although being beta to Siegfried helped diminish the frequency of his attacks, it really didn’t alter his overall aggressive nature.  The fact of the matter is that his wild and aggressive behavior simply doesn’t fit in with the flock, or the farm.  There’s been no improvement in recent months, he’s just more unpredictable, and as aggressive as ever.

 

Siegfried's spurs, as they continued to grow in, we're becoming formidable weapons

Part of why we’ve kept Siegfried this long is that we wanted to maintain a closed flock, to minimize the introduction of disease to the farm, to raise our own chicks.  Recently though it’s become very clear that we don’t want to breed such an aggressive bird.  Hatcheries don’t select for temperament, they can’t, as their volume of production is simply too great.  We however can.  I knew it was time to stop dragging my feet.  Siegfried had to go…and last Saturday, go he did.  Frodo is now ruler of the roost.

Frodo is now head rooster at Curbstone Valley

 

For a look back at the last 9 months with Siegfried, see the video below.  Note, around the 12 second mark in the video, where Frodo is chasing Siegfried!  It’s a shame that didn’t last!

I know some won’t agree with our decision to cull Siegfried, but honestly I think it’s the most humane thing we could have done. We could have listed him for sale, but I’m well aware that a number of illegal cock-fighting rings exist in this county, and even though his aggressiveness may have been appealing to someone interested in a fighting bird, I absolutely abhor the practice of cock-fighting.  Siegfried simply didn’t deserve that.  Sending Siegfried to a home elsewhere as a family pet, would have been nothing short of irresponsible.  He wouldn’t think twice about attacking a small child, or a family dog.  As homeless roosters are rather plentiful these days with the resurgence in chicken-keeping, the other most likely home a rooster is going to find is an 8-quart stainless steel one with a lid.  A 100% organic rooster, I don’t doubt we’d have found a buyer, however, by taking care of Siegfried here ourselves, at least we know he had a humane end.

It wasn’t an easy decision, and one I really didn’t want to make.  I tried to find yet another excuse to keep Siegfried here, but I was out of excuses.  Loving the sound of his quintessential rooster crow just wasn’t enough.  He was never intended to be a meat bird, if he was, for one, I never would have named him.  He was more of a farm fixture, not food.  However, I’d simply run out of reasons to keep him here.  This farm is too small for a vicious rooster.

 

 

Having Siegfried on the farm wasn't all bad, but the good days seemed to be behind us

I’m sorry Siegfried, I wish we could have made it work, but the coop is much more peaceful and calm now that you’re gone.  The pullets are so much more relaxed.  Egg production has increased significantly in the last week, and I can actually walk into the run each morning without wondering whether I’ll make it back to the kitchen without injuries.  The farm is much quieter too.  We do miss his morning crowing volley with Frodo, but if I’m honest, there’s not much else I miss. It sounds less like a farm here now, but who knows, perhaps someday when Frodo is full grown, he’ll finally find his voice too.

40 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness. He did need to go. As I was reading I was hoping that he wouldn’t end up with some idiot betting on cock fighting! Tough decision, but I believe a smart one. I enjoyed this post.
    Darla´s last post…Fertilizer Friday -

    • The thought of one of my animals being used for fighting, even one as mean as Siegfried, I could never live with myself. I think soup is a better option!

  2. Yikes, one surely would call this domestic violence, so hasta la vista Siegfried and RIP.

    • It will never cease to amaze me how brutal life can be in chickendom. We’d discussed offing Siegfried before, for the sake of the girls, and then after he went for me again. Well, that was the last straw. It seriously hurt me, and I still have the bruises to show for it, but I’m significantly larger than a hen. I can’t imagine…

  3. You did the right thing – glad the girls are recovering!

    • Thanks Jeannie. I think the girls are relieved! :)

  4. In the end it was the right thing to do. You were right about him being a liability. So is Frodo in with the girls yet? If so, how are they all doing?
    Dog Island Farm´s last post…Book Plug!

    • Noooo. Frodo is not with the girls. We’re going to do things a little differently from now on. No full time resident roosters with the hens, it’s just too hard on the girls. Although Frodo may not be as bad as Siegfried. I can’t imagine a rooster as bad as he was. We do want to work up to limited periods ranging together though, but after last time, we won’t rush it! ;)

  5. While reading, I was telling myself, “this bird had better become dinner.”
    Turling´s last post…An Update on the Olives

    • We have a menu plan ;) At the moment he’s at refrigerator camp.

  6. Interesting post. I’m wondering did Siegfried end up being your Saturday dinner?

    • That’s the intention, but it will be this Saturday. I’ve been too busy, and then sick this week. As roosters can be stringy, and require long slow cooking to be their best, I’m thinking of a nice slow-cooked Indian chicken curry. We’ll see how that turns out.

  7. How very unfortunate! But it does seem as if Siegfried just was too much, and especially after he chickened out instead of being a protector of his flock. Off with his head, I say.

    • It was unfortunate really, but he had a good life while he was here. His girls didn’t, but he did ;)

  8. Your story was almost a tearjerker. I did feel sorry for him, yet I have my own attack ‘rooster’. Actually a Cockatoo that does the same feet attack. What is it with birds? Is this why they call them birdbrained. Really and seriously.

    I am head hen in my household and yet he can still be a tiny terror. So I fully understand how Siegfried made the pot. BTW. My cockatoo plucked all the fur off my guinea pig. So it is no joke how nasty boy birds can be.
    Donna´s last post…Process of Design – The Base Plan

    • I really was genuinely torn about Siegfried. If being a hot-head destines one to be soup, I need to be careful where I tread! Honestly though, I wish he had just been a little less aggressive. Frodo is proof that roosters don’t have to be mean spur-wielding beasts. I’m sure that the increasing day-length wasn’t helping on the rooster hormone front either, and heaven knows what he’d have been like by mid-spring. I can’t imagine your poor guinea pig, usually birds pluck themselves, not their room mates!

  9. Clare, I’m sure this was a difficult decision, but as a reader of your fowl friday posts, it seemed inevitable to me that this would be the eventual outcome; it was just a question of how long it would take. Enjoy your new tranquility.
    Jean´s last post…The Life of the Garden in Winter

  10. Well if anyone seems to take their animals best interest to heart it would be you. It sounds like your decision really was for the best.
    I had missed the story about Zilla. That was pretty scary. You write so well and I get so caught up in your posts I feel like I’m right there with you.
    Catherine´s last post…Numb hands- warm heart

  11. I am reminded of a story that mom used to tell about the rooster she had that ended up in the soup pot because he jumped on the back of my little brother who was barely a toddler–ever so many years ago. My husband tells the same tale of his grandmother’s rooster that attacked him as little kid. So it goes with aggressive roosters. You do Seigfried honor by writing so beautifully about him. You treated him fairly and respectfully and so it goes with roosters.

  12. Oh dear, Clare. Love is in your heart in this beautifully crafted post. (((Hugs)))Always an adventure to visit!
    joey´s last post…WEDNESDAY WANDERINGS JANUARY FULL MOON – LONE WINTER LEAVES

  13. Hi CV,

    I can understand your decision, especially as he was a danger not only to your other birds but to yourself. Sometimes keeping animals isn’t an easy decision, but at least you know he was well looked after and much loved – just ignore the attacking for a moment – but you do have to do what’s best for your other animals and yourselves.

    I think it was the right choice to make, try not to worry too much about it as it’s clear you care very much for your animals.
    Liz´s last post…It’s rolling in like a steam train

  14. Siegfried would have been better as a capon methinks. Obviously a strong fighting cock gene that does not meld with the henhouse. A great narrative Clare and did so enjoy the retrospective. The King is dead, Long live King Frodo
    Laura @ PatioPatch´s last post…Lost and Found

  15. Clare that last encounter sounds dreadful. He really did have to go. I am so pleased that Frodo is now in charge and he looks so beautiful now aswell.

  16. Thanks for taking the time to tell this story. And I’m glad to hear you weren’t hurt worse than you were. Sounds like the outcome could have been far worse for you and the hens!

    I was pinned down one time by my neighbor’s parrot. I was over there to feed him and the cats, and he had gotten loose from his cage. That bird got the best of me and 4 cats! So I can only imagine a full grown rooster with spurs coming after you repeatedly.
    villager´s last post…Homemade- Granola Bars

  17. Good for Frodo :)

    I once had a ‘Siegfried’. He too had an untimely end.

  18. The best decisions are often not the easiest but I’m glad you removed him from the coop. I had no idea before following your blog how dramatic chcikens could be!
    Casa Mariposa´s last post…I hope you dont mind- but

  19. Having been viciously attacked by my grandfather’s rooster when I was only 9, I completely understand what you had to do. As a matter of fact, I’ve held a healthy respect for the beasts ever since. I never, ever would’ve considered owning chickens due to that childhood experience, that is, I wouldn’t have until reading this blog. You sucked me in with mushroom posts, and then I became fascinated with the poultry tales.

    Glad to see Frodo is now king of the roost. :-)
    Floridagirl´s last post…A Virtual Garden Walk

  20. So, it’s chicken curry, I hope the nasty boy tastes good.

  21. What a story—I was on the edge of my seat.
    Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last post…Snowdrops- Further Confessions of a Galanthophile

  22. Wow Clare, can I relate. My last rooster Maurice, a French Maran, shredded my legs one too many times, plus like you, I found it disturbing to watch his escalation of domestic violence in the henhouse.

    But unlike you, I made the mistake of giving him to a neighbor with full disclosure of his aggressive behavior.

    My neighbor’s tougher than I am. The first time she saw her 9 year old daughter running away in terror from this going-rogue rooster, well, Maurice became a main course. Coq au vin, it’s whats for dinner.
    Tom @ Tall Clover Farm´s last post…You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby…

  23. You know, agonizing over non indigenous native irises versus indigenous ones, just doesn’t rise to the levels of drama of your chicken blogs! Sorry for your hard choice here, but it certainly seems you made a wise one.
    Country Mouse´s last post…Asilomar Dune Restoration 2- The plants signified

  24. I must say that you gave Siegfried many more chances then I would have. Of course that is easy for me to say because I didn’t have to make the real decision. But, I do believe you made the right one. Hopefully Frodo will not become aggressive he is very beautiful.
    charlotte´s last post…Bees- the Good and the Bad

  25. Long live King Frodo! Thanks for showing what a rooster can really do to hens. Hopefully Frodo won’t be so hard on them.
    Jackie´s last post…Serendipitous bean crosses

  26. It’s all for the best, Clare. Order is now restored in the poultry palace!

  27. I know you did the right thing!! And I’m so excited for Frodo!!! He’s such a dreamboat, surely the hens will cut him some slack and get used to him. He’s got a big pair of feet to fill, but he’ll do it. He’s becoming a man!! I’m delighted. Siggie did not know how to show respect for the mortgage-payers and feed-buyer in his life. You did everything with his that you could.
    Bonnie Story´s last post…Shots from Januaries past

  28. I think I would have eaten poor Siegfried long before you. You must be a very patient person. And you definitely don’t want his genes in any future generations.
    Brad´s last post…Garden Update

  29. You certainly did the right thing. Don’t even think twice about it. He could have seriously injured the ladies and I’m sure he was stressing them out.

  30. I don’t know how I missed this post (especially when I’m so excited about chickens right now). I feel sort of relieved that I’m just not allowed to have roosters due to the noise ordinance. It seems hard to get attached to one and then have it turn out to be too violent. I think you handled it reasonably and humanely — your chronicle of the experience is fascinating! I hope your girls enjoy having all their feathers and bits of their combs again.
    Eliza @ Appalachian Feet´s last post…How to Trade Seeds with Me

  31. Thank you for posting this, Clare. As always, I learned a lot about chicken rearing from watching you go first and deal with all of it. We still want our own birds whenever we get to a more permanent location, and we’re pretty sure it’ll just be hens for us at first — but I do dream of a rooster, too, especially after falling in love with a lovely Araucana rooster at our CSA farm.

    Come to think of it, though, he was the one who kept jumping the coop fence and running across the street to try and invade the neighbor’s coop, and his owner was always making jokes about how he needed to just jump in the pot, instead. Roosters seem like they can be quite a handful.

    I’m so glad you’re no longer risking injury (and hope you’re healing well), and grateful that you didn’t risk Sigfried ending up in a cock fight.
    Meredith´s last post…the bees are back

  32. Clare, as I was telling my farm-raised-hubby about your events, and he was saying “stew” before I could finish. Isn’t it amazing how tolerant we are – hoping to be able to change circumstances – when we know deep down that the behavior likely will not change for the better? I am happy to see you weren’t injured anymore than you were.
    Diana´s last post…SkyWatch and Seedlings