Roosters and Rhodies

20140725-080949-29389716.jpgOur Ixworth lads have become better and better at heralding the dawn this week. Combining the power of their fully grown lungs, the four-month-olds no longer emit a tentative croaky declaration, but a full-blown crow that is muted effectively by the thick wooden walls of the coop only until 6am during the week – the latest time I can let them out before getting ready for work at CL HQ and heading off for the train. Living in a semi-detached house, with the addition of an occupied static caravan in our neighbour’s garden stationed a matter of feet away from the chicken run, James and I have been feeling rather guilty about the inevitable alarm calls of our boys. Perhaps one wouldn’t be so bad, but four is a bit much for anyone’s early-morning livestock-tolerance levels.

So last weekend we temporarily downed DIY tools in our own home and bit the bullet, gathering up enough pieces of waste wood that are scattered about The Smallholdings to build a new chicken house for the vocal quartet. Deciding to place it in the large run that belongs to the laying flock, we began to work out how to make the structure when we hit upon another idea – converting part of the hens’ existing undercover run into a coop for the boys – that way we already had a roof and we just needed to fill in the sides, make a floor, door and pen. Feeling as if we were already halfway there, we set to work with enthusiasm and although the modest design is not yet finished, we’re confident it will be this weekend.

The semi-complete new coop to be finished this weekend

In the laying flock, there’s been some pretty interesting cockerel-like behaviour occurring – and not from our dear little lavender lad Jeffrey, but from our four-year-old Rhode Island Red hen, one of our first hatchlings. We’ve caught this mature lady regularly mounting the other hens, usually the brown hybrids. I expect, as with other animals such as dogs, it’s an act of domination,  but it’s odd nonetheless. Perhaps it’s Jeffrey’s presence that’s inspired the distinctly male goings-on and maybe Rhodie’s competing with him to rule the roost. There’s not much warning before the act occurs and the victims appear rather baffled and ruffled afterwards, as you’d expect.

Rhodie is the picture of innocence here as she dustbathes in the shade of the hawthorn, but she's been bullying her fellow layers
Rhodie is the picture of innocence here as she dust-bathes in the shade of the hawthorn, but she’s been bullying her fellow layers

The Oxford Sandy & Black piglets are not yet sufficiently weaned from the sow, so we won’t be collecting them this weekend but next. I was initially disappointed, of course, but on the other hand we still need to pick up straw and prepare the ark. We can always do with some borrowed time at the Smallholdings!

PS Came across this interesting article when I was looking into cockerels’ crows…

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