We may have ended up with an unplanned rooster today. At least it wasn’t a baby.
We went to the Berkshire County Fair today. 4H had set up in a corner of the fairgrounds, and once we navigated the kids past all the rides, food vendors, and other lures, we had fun getting to know the animals.
This 4H group is larger than the one we’ve gotten to know in our own county and it was interesting to see the kinds of husbandry the children get up to. For those unfamiliar with the 4H system, it’s a nationwide youth development organization, known especially for hands on projects in agriculture. Kids raise all sorts of livestock for show. At the 4H fairs, you see things like sheep sheering competitions, calf races, and animals in cages with ribbons. 4H does a lot more than animal husbandry, but it’s what I associate them with.
So we spent a lot of time under the cow, sheep, and chicken tents, petting the animals and contemplating what our girls (ages 3.5 and 1.5) might get up to in a few years. We met a small herd of baby doll sheep, who were absolutely adorable. They have convinced us to at least consider adding sheep one day. These tiny, friendly critters exuded serenity and just wanted to snuggle. Seemed perfect for a couple of kids as they get older.
But about that unplanned rooster. It’s a cochin, a large black bird with feathers on his toes. Cochin is a heritage breed, recognized by the Livestock Conservancy as a recovering species. They were extremely popular from 1850-1900 or so, before almost dying out like most breeds in the face of industrial agriculture. They are an extremely docile, cold hearty bird, which fits well with our cold winters and young children. This particular rooster had a blue ribbon on his cage and a sign saying $5.
We ignored it. We weren’t looking for a rooster. What we were looking for was advice from one of the chicken breeders regarding some brutal bullying going on in our flock. The 4H folks recommended we add a rooster to our flock to shift the power dynamics. And they knew someone who was desperately trying to get rid of a rooster. Did the sign say $5? Just kidding, no charge. In fact, he’d be happy to deliver it. What, we don’t live in Berkshire county? No problem, he’ll drive out our way on Monday.
What is wrong with this rooster that he’s so eager to get rid of it? Apparently it was an oops rooster for him too. His son had ordered a batch of female chicks (pullets), but sometimes the sexing at the hatchery is inaccurate. They ended up with a rooster in the mix. They kept him around long enough to fertilize the next batch of eggs (we got to meet the day old chicks – adorable!), but he no longer had a place on their farm. The natural order calls for such a rooster to end up in the pot. The family is desperate for an alternative.
We need to check with our town and confirm that roosters are allowed. We also may think better of this. But for the moment, it looks like we may be adding a rooster to our family. Mazel Tov!