Monday, May 14, 2012

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

You may remember our adventures in chicken-keeping began with three tiny black and white fuzzballs. They started out all looking the same.

Over time, though, they began to get some differences in coloration and eventually personality that helped us tell them apart. The two Barred Rocks in this group picture are the black chickens with white or gray markings. You can see that Liza in the foreground looks much darker than Frenchie just behind her, even though they're the same breed.

In fact, in a lot of ways, we started to think that Frenchie looked a bit, well, different.

By three weeks old, we were pretty sure we knew what it was that made Frenchie different. At this age Helga (the other Barred Rock) was still mostly black with a smattering of white speckles. She'd also developed a small comb on the front of her face.

Frenchie, on the other hand, had become almost entirely striped, with a larger comb and big thick legs.

And boy was Frenchie bigger than the other chicks!

This meant that the trouble with Frenchie was... that she was a he! Yes, we have ourselves a bona fide rooster. It turns out that determining the sex of a day-old chick is not so easy. The hatchery from which we'd gotten our chicks promises 90% accuracy, so when we ordered 10 hens we knew this was a definite possibility. There aren't always such early plumage differences between males and females, but this particular breed does begin to show differences at a young age. The size difference, the bigger comb and the thicker legs are also pretty universal indicators that it's a rooster.

Unfortunately, keeping backyard roosters is not a great idea in an urban area. Technically it wouldn't be against the chicken laws, but once a rooster starts crowing every morning (and throughout the rest of the day) the noise ordinance complaints can pile up in a hurry! We want our neighbors to like our urban chickens, so Frenchie is going to have to find a new home.

Luckily we have a little time before Frenchie gets too vocal. Right now we're following several leads, including some friends with a legitimate nice farm in the country where he could live. And we actually mean that, we're not talking about a "nice farm in the country."

This brings our flock down to a group of nine, since none of the others look very rooster-y just yet. We'll still keep a close eye on them in case there are any late bloomers, but for now we're pretty optimistic. In the meantime feel free to let us know if you know anyone who needs a rooster!

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