Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meet Eros & Helios

One night a few weeks ago disaster struck at Spring Rock.   A  fox attacked the chooks and ended up killing all but three of the hens.  Adonis, the rooster, but up a great fight by the looks of things and the fox finally left him alone for easier prey, but Adonis didn't survive the mauling.  I moved the three survivors into the aviary much to Hedwig, Hermes and Nova's disgust until Graeme could find time to do some major repairs and fox proofing of the chook pen.  

I can't say that harmony reigned in the aviary but everyone was safe from attack fro foxes and that was the main thing.  Hedwig assumed a permanent scowl on her little Galah face and settled in to a bad mood for the ensuing weeks.  Hermes ignored them but didn't approve and Nova, who is really a pigeon of peace, just tried to get along with everyone.  The chooks weren't impressed with the cramped accommodation after living in their spacious chook pen for all their lives but they soon saw the advantages of previously unscratched ground and had a great time tearing up the aviary floor in an effort to find every bug present.

On Monday, at our craft group meeting, I mentioned my intention of getting some black Australorp hens in then next few weeks and that I'd try and buy a rooster at the same time.  My neighbour told me that a friend of ours, a fellow craft group member, had two large black roosters she was trying to find a home for because they were driving her mad chasing her bantam hens.  Our friend is up to her neck in clearing out all her recently deceased husband's stuff and works non-stop all day.  The rooster problem was just adding to her stress.  She is like me and wouldn't do anything to harm the roosters.  They were thrown over her fence when they were younger and have lived there ever since.


I rang our friend on Wednesday and arranged to pick them up so they could come and live here with full size hens (all three of the survivors from the fox attack). She thanked me and said I'd taken a load off her mind.  Poor Graeme wasn't thrilled with me taking both roosters, but when he saw how grateful our friend was not to have to worry about them any more he didn't say a word about both coming to live with us, sweetie that he is.  The boys are beautiful.  Our friend believes they are show poultry rejects because of their size and general good looks.  I've searched the Internet and think they are Orpingtons.  If you have a better suggestion as to their breed I'd love to hear from you.  They are outside crowing at the dawn and showing off to the girls as I type.

I named the two roosters Eros (the Greek god of love) and Helios (the Greek sun god before Apollo took over), and they are settling in nicely.  Our friend assured me they were very gentle roosters and would get on well together despite competing for the girls.  They'd never had a cross word with each other while living with her and they tried to compete for the bantam girls whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

The three surviving hens' opinions are divided on the benefits of the boys moving in.  I'd just moved the girls back into their heavily reinforced chook pen from their stint in protective custody in the aviary, hours before the boys arrived and the girls were having fun running around and being basically free range again when these two huge and bossy males arrived.  The boys immediately set about trying to mate with the girls.  No polite introductions or getting to know you drinks or dinners, just straight into it.  The ancient brown hen was really put off by the whole sordid incident and has adopted the attitude that if she ignores them they may just go away.  She has taken to keeping herself at the opposite end of the chook pen to wherever the boys may be roaming at the time.  She's not impressed with the morning crowing competition either.  I went out yesterday to give them some scraps and check on the state of the nation chook-pen-wise and the two boys were in full voice.  The old brown girl was sitting up the other end of the chook yard and every time one of the boys crowed she closed her eyes, almost achieving a pained expression on her little chooky face.  I could almost hear her saying, "Yeah, yeah, you're both big strong males and you make the sun rise every morning.  It's been up for hours now.  Enough already!!"  

The Old Brown Hen.  Note the closed eyes.  The roosters were crowing hello to me as I took the photos

When the three girls were ensconced in the aviary one of the girls started to make very un-hen like crowing sounds. I have read that sometimes when a rooster dies and only hens are left the dominant hen will take on attributes of the rooster.  I imagine if that was what was happening it would have been the old brown hen, so maybe she's just ticked off that her moment to be really top of the heap has been taken away from her.  There's no chance she will be able to lord it over these two giants of the chook pen, even if they are gentle roosters. 

The younger brown hen seems ambivalent towards the boys.  She doesn't keep her distance, but she doesn't court their attention either.  They are just two new inhabitants of the chook pen and there's room for everyone to roam about and plenty of juicy bugs and interesting things so everyone gets a chance to catch the worms whether they are early or not.  Unlike the old brown girl, the younger brown hen is still of child bearing years so the roosters mating activities don't really offend her.

       The Young Brown Hen looking for a tasty bug.

Mum The Marran, named by three year old grandson Liam (his second choice of names when he was told Dad wasn't an appropriate name for a girl chook), sees them as God's gift to put upon young hens.  The older two girls had spent the entire time in the aviary showing Mum The Marran that she is at the very bottom of the pecking order.  They implied that it's a pity there are only the three of them because she would rate even lower than third in the pecking order if that was possible.  The thing about the pecking order is that it involves just that - pecking.  Poor little Mum The Marran spent her days in the cramped aviary trying to find a spot the other two hens would let her have.  Wherever she moved they pecked her and moved her on.  Now, with two huge black body guards she is in seventh heaven.  Wherever Eros and Helios can be found there she is with them, peeking out from behind them metaphorically poking her tongue out at the other two hens.  She is enduring the crowing competitions in the knowledge that a slight headache is better than being pecked constantly, and while she sticks close to the boys no-one is trying to peck her back into her place in the pecking order.


Mum The Marran 


Mum The Marran hiding behind Eros

 So the state of the nation chook-pen-wise is that things are looking very good (unless you are an ancient brown hen).  Peace reigns supreme, if rather noisily and a more democratic reign has been installed where young Marrans can live free and scratch and peck with the best of them, unmolested and safe from bossy hen domination (well, not pecked anyway, I imagine there's a bit of rooster style molesting going on with Mum The Marran but she doesn't seem to mind).

A happy, serene chook pen (if you discount all the crowing).  Note the Old Brown Hen is nowhere to be seen in this photo.