Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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It is suppose to be a hen

The first flock was seventeen weeks old, their were six of them all layers.  One of the first things we learned was that you did not need a rooster in order to get eggs from a hen.   After hearing stories of insane and attack roosters, having hens was just fine by us.  We had gotten comfortable with cover cropping, field rotation and mixing grasses and legumes for the chickens to forage.  Family and friends truly liked the taste of the eggs so we felt we were ready to expand.  

When you get hens as day old chicks they are suppose to be hens.  Because we didn't know any better we expected that we would get hens when we ordered a total of fifteen one day old hens.  I had seen how they sex chicks (determine male or female) and some chicks are known to be hens based on their color (sexlinks).  We have Rhode Island Reds and apparently they are not as easy to sex as one thinks.  We didn't know this but found out later with on the job training. 

We got flock two, fifteen, day old chicks, and raised them organically.  We moved them out to the barn when they were four weeks old.  They had feathers but we put a heat lamp out just the same.  We had started to build a moveable pen so we were in the barn a lot that spring.  As the chicks grew I started noticing one that was bigger than the rest.  I didn't pay much attention to it until it started sounding different then the others.

I know why city people are made fun of in rural areas.  Here is a primary example of why we as urban dwellers are looked upon with a degree of skepticism from our rural neighbors.  I called the farm store and asked about our recent chicken order.  "Did we get a rooster with the hens"? I asked.  "No, probably not" was the answer then followed by "we can't guarantee all hens at sale but probably not".  So I described the chicken that was more developed then the rest and said that it sounds like it is trying to crow. "Yep," she said you got a rooster.

Without even thinking when she said it was a rooster I blurted out a question that, as the words were forming and audiblizing, I knew was the dumbest question a supposed farmer could ask.  There are two things you can do with a rooster on a farm.  One is to eat him.  The other is to let him fertilize the eggs.  That's it; those are the only things roosters can do on a farm.  A male chicken has two functions on a farm he is food or Don Juan for the ladies.

Of course I knew this, but I was forming the question, and the sales clerk on the other end was hearing it, and I couldn't stop myself.  When she told me it was a rooster I was dumb founded "What am I going to do with a rooster," I blurted out mindlessly.  There was dead silence on the other end of the phone line or maybe muffled laughter I don't remember.  What I do remember is questioning why I had just asked such a simple question.  She composed herself enough to say that indeed we could eat it or we could you use it for its reproductive capability.  Neither of which we wanted or planned for so I ended the conversation quickly.  So the damage was done, at least I hadn't given her my name 

We never wanted a rooster, we are not at the processing stage and we didn’t want to hatch chicks either.  With our luck if we hatched chicks we’d get more males then females.  Rooster weren’t a thought until we started seeing and hearing the signs.  By that time it is too late, it is yours.  We tried to sell it, then offered to give it away but had no takers.  Over time we have found that there is a third function a rooster can serve and that is ambience, our customers like to hear it crow and often comment on him.  They get to see a beautiful Rhode Island Red in all his plumage and in full throat.  Of course I've learned the mating signs so I'm not caught off guard when he's in the mood and we happen to have parents and children watching.

So the Rooster lives on with a run of the yard and hens to keep him company and protect.  So far their have been no signs of insanity, delusions of grandeur or unprovoked attacking.  Oh, and the rooster is ok too.

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