A Rooster In The House

“This morning we slept until 6:45 before Charlie woke us with his most vibrant good-morning-crow.  Phoenix was startled – as was the rest of the household -kitties and myself –with the volume coming from the office and jumped up, alert, headed for the door.  In spite of the shocking reality of a rooster in the house it was good to see Phoenix so full of life, eager to greet the world”.   

This excerpt from our first post felt deserving of some explanation:

The Dream of Backyard Chickens
I have wanted to experience chickens now for years.  In part I thought they would be a good source of enrichment for Phoenix’s life – not to eat, but to learn how to be in relationship with yet another living creature.  As a Dutch Shepherd she is a herding dog and so I’ve thought instead of sheep, which are not permitted in residential zoning, that chickens may be the next best thing.  Of course there has been my own curiosity of all the vehicles – makes and models that life inhabits – and a desire to experience and learn about as many as possible.  I love the curious nature of chickens and what seems to me a comical movement about them.  I’ve felt that just sitting with them would in some way be therapeutic.  I also enjoy fresh eggs and love knowing what is in them!

This spring finally came the time where I had help in setting up the backyard necessities – coop and all – for my chicken dream to happen!  On April 27th the baby’s arrived – 1 day old!

See New Arrivals video on youtube.

Backyard Chickens:  Rules, Reality and Roosters!
The city in which I live permits 6 backyard chickens – hens, no roosters.  Chicken hatcheries and local farms give a 95% guarantee that the chicks you purchase from them are all pullets – or female chickens – noting the difficulty in sexing chickens.

The names for the New Arrivals started coming in, but not all at once – some evolved as the chicks grew and took longer – up to six weeks to match up with the little beings operating within the body:

“Cloud” turned into Sky, “Cuddles” turned into Dolly.  “Princess J” tuned into “PJ” easier to say “Peege” which turned into Peaches!  Ginger Bug came in early and then nick named Jin Jin, and Dora came in early as well and stayed Dora, affectionately Darling Dora.  Charlie, or “Charlie Girl” also came in early.  “She” was kind of the Tom Boy of the hatchlings.  I pictured her in jeans and a white T-shirt bulldozing around the brooder.  The others wore pastel colored sun dresses. “She” was different – never wanting to cuddle in the human hand like the other chicks.

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Charlie “Girl” 2 days old.  Charlie turned out to be the 5% chance you have in not getting a pullet.  Charlie Girl turned out to be Charlie Boy Rooster!

When we first started suspecting Charlie may be a Rooster part of me was excited – to experience more of the world of chickens – a rooster – a different kind of energy in a body.  That excitement turned into extreme stress when he started crowing!  There is good reason why roosters are not permitted in residential areas!

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Looking for possible solutions – any lead for what to do with a rooster,  I called the farm store where I purchased the chicks, the humane society, and several local sanctuaries – all gave the same response: “it’s becoming a problem”.  More people with the good intention of raising backyard chickens end up with that 5% chance of a the “unwanted” rooster and the sanctuaries are full.

In a more encouraging investigation I read online how a single rooster can actually make a good pet, that they tend not to show the aggression as they might when protecting a flock of hens or are in competition with another rooster.  I held out hope for a proper home for Charlie.

What to do with a Rooster?
In speaking with my immediate neighbors they all revealed that the rooster crowing didn’t bother them – no more anyway than the many barking dogs in the neighborhood.  One neighbor went so far as to say he thought it was charming having a rooster living next door,  another said in an endearing tone that it felt reminiscent of living in the country.

Those conversations were within a month of Charlie crowing.  He is growing and getting louder and on some days more frequent – with his voice carrying blocks away.

The no-crow collar: A Solution?
This is the collar he’s sporting in the featured photo above.  It is a simple velcro strap with string mesh expansion strips.  It is supposed to go on very snug so that only the tip of a pinky finger can fit between the neck and the collar from the top and bottom edges.  With the collar properly in place he can still crow, and obviously eat and drink, but it cuts down on the volume of air passing over the vocal cords and therefore the volume of sound we hear.  Great idea!  Not easy to put on a rooster!

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After much trial and error over a two week period we got the collar working to a satisfactory degree – about 50% of his crowing capacity.  There was relative peace for about a week.  One morning I went out curious I hadn’t heard Charlie crow and it was after 7 am – could he still be sleeping?  He is pretty consistent with 6 -6:30 am, if not an occasional 5, 4, 3, or 2 am if something should disturb him in the wee hours.  Did I mention they, or at least he, makes for a good security alarm for any intrusions on the property?  I now have good reason to dismantle the motion detectors around my house – as a falling leaf may trigger the light illuminating the yard which can be subtly detected through the window of the coop and thus igniting Charlie’s duty to sound the alarm!

This particular morning I found Charlie to be walking around the pen outside the coop, but noticed not only had he not let out a crow, but he was also without his usual chortles and chicken talk – coaxing the girls hither in hopes of fowl nuptials. Something seemed wrong and I suspected he might be growing – into the collar – that it was getting too tight.  I watched a bit longer and then became alarmed when I saw foam coming from his beak!  Yikes.  In moments, we were both relieved to have the collar off!  Charlie resumed normal behavior and his crows were gorgeous, albeit borderline ear piercing at full volume!

A Rooster in The House
I left the collar off for a day – giving Charlie a break and personally enjoying his unrestricted expression during daylight hours.  But night time came, and the wee hours, and a huge concern and stress over the disturbance he (must be) creating in the neighborhood.  It was one thing for me to be woken at 5-6 in the morning and any odd hour prior, but I felt it was only a matter of time before one of the neighbors complained.

During this time I have been consumed with Phoenix and her care.  I felt limited in my ability to think clearly when it came to roosters and was primarily responding to the stress I felt with each reverberating crow after dark and before dawn.  We tried reapplying the collar, but again days were going by and we couldn’t seem to get the right fit where it was tight enough to decrease the volume and not too tight to restrict quality of life.

Other ideas continued to percolate – about sound proofing the coop and buying a house in the country.  Both of these solutions would take time, which I didn’t feel I had.  In a moment, perhaps of desperation, I drove to the pet store and bought a dog crate.  The best solution I could come up with was to keep Charlie indoors during neighborhood sleeping hours – at least there his wee-hour crows would be muffled enough by the surrounds of the insulated house.  During the day we would take our chances – as one neighbor again mentioned he was no louder, or more bothersome than the barking dogs.  Three of the neighbors have admitted to liking it – the early morning sound of a rooster crowing (they were all men?)

My 2nd office desk, turned Chicken roost!roos-cage-img_4644-1
On a good day Charlie lets us sleep until 6:30!
One heck of an alarm clock – shakes the walls of the slumbering house!
No batteries, or electricity needed for a full-out, jump-start to your day!

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Early morning rounds with Mr.Charlie Roo

The story of Charlie will be continued in a future post – Cosmic Joke

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