Even though I am as skint as a flint at the moment, I decided that my first ever payment from having a writing piece published should not be frittered away on bill-paying but should be spent on something good and nice, and maybe even vaguely symbolic. So what did I buy with it? A chook house. A put-it-together-yourself version, the type that has you scratching your head for hours on end while you try and arrange all the pieces together.
The chook house was for Tristan. I didn't realise I was going to be owning a chook until ... well, until it was a few days after he'd climbed through our fence from the yard next door, and still hadn't left. I didn't know a whole lot about roosters until last Tuesday. I'm still learning.
Some neighbourhood enquiries determined that he seemed to have been a street-chook for the previous week, hanging out on random front lawns and back deckings until he crossed into the yard while I was sitting outside. So he was either lost, or dumped.
So I had myself a rooster.
Now the pieces of the chook house are arranged, and Tristan has a lovely new home. He also has a few inhabitants to go with it - a couple of hens - Isa Browns, who I have quickly discovered are one of the "layer" breeds of the chicken fraternity. Tristan, he's a rather more showy Light Sussex. We haven't named the hens yet. The poor things were a little scared. Just like I was about letting them out of their pen. The woman we bought them from said to keep them penned for a week. Other places on the internet said a few days will suffice. They looked so vitamin D deficient, poor things, that at the first sign of sun yesterday afternoon I let them out for a wander and a scratch. I was a bit nervous about whether they would all return to the chook house at the end of the day. When I went out there late yesterday afternoon, before it was dusk, they had rounded themselves up and were already ensconced in their "bedroom".
Before I bought the hens on the weekend, I had pretty much thought that Tristan was full-grown. That was until we saw the giant sized roosters at the chicken place, which did make me gulp. Those buggers were so big, their rrr-rrr-rrr-RRRRRrrrrrr crowing would wake up an entire suburb at a time and have me the hated sleep depriver of the street.
Hmmm. Need to get the crowing sorted.
Some things I have discovered about roosters:
- They roost. Now, this is patently obvious. But the name rooster is so familiar that years of use have rendered its meaning impotent. And so I was interested to see Tristan make his home in a tree before we bought his chook house. Chickens like to sleep off the ground. It helps them remain a little less uneaten from dead-of-night foxes.
- They like a chat. If you say brrrr, they say brrrr back. It's all quite sweet, really.
- They crow. Like, really early. At 4.52.
- There are several ways you can get them to stop crowing. One is to situate a perch in the chook house that is close enough to the ceiling so that they don't have the requisite room to stretch out their neck, a necessity when crowing. So far, this has not worked. He has, however, put off his crowing a little. This is one area where daylight savings is a welcome beast. He doesn't start crowing now till, like, 5.30.
- Another way to stop them crowing is to darken the situation. Put a tarp or something over the hutch. In Tristan's case, there is a little window into the roosting part of his coop. I plan on Blu-Taking something over it today to see if it will keep him quiet a little longer.
- Roosters crow for different reasons. Some to do with impressing chickens, some to do with territory, some to do with the sight of food. Tristan has some morning crowing going in response to a rooster a few streets over. They like a game of crow tennis. Luckily this isn't until sometime after 8 :)
- Eating chicken when you have chickens raises some ethical questions. I have always felt queasy about eating meat. Been a vegetarian for stretches. Only eat meat a few times a week. Can lose my appetite when I consider it is a dead animal on my plate. Eating meat is just plain bizarre. It's just that we are so used to it that we don't really blink twice about it. I read a Margaret Atwood story earlier in the year that was set in the future and in which people ate meat grown on racks in laboratories. I had never considered that thought before then. That made me a little queasy too when I first read about it. Over the months, the thought has grown on me more and more. Turns out it's not fiction, but fact. Once lab-grown meat hits the stores, I will be the first guinea pig through the door to try. So I can have my chooks and eat them too.