We were quite proud of our little family of chickens. We purchased different varieties, including frizzle, bantam and wyandotte. We got them when they were old enough to start laying and gave them all names of female singers: Dusty, Patsy, Cilla, Lulu and so on.
However, we soon had to rename some of our girls when Cilla and Lulu began to crow in the early hours of the morning; Cilla became Cyril and Lulu became Lewis, the proud roosters of our little pack of chooks.
All was fine until summer arrived and brooding commenced. Not familiar with the ways of chickens, we asked no questions, and soon our little family grew. Next door’s ISA browns started producing chicks with feathers on their legs and our little chicks were bigger than expected and not very bantam-like at all. The batches kept coming. They hid the eggs under the bushes, in the old shed behind a plank of wood, and in the daisies next to the driveway.
Every now and again a hen would disappear, only to reappear about a month later with a fluffy dozen of her best. They would all file out and we would try to count them.
They just kept coming. One bunch took residence in the front garden, prompting us to consider putting a sign at the gate saying “Chickens Crossing”.
We are committed to not eating our family (Ingham’s can relax). Which raises the problem of what to do with them all. We’ve offered to give them away but where we live, lots of people have their own chickens already.
When I first moved to Tasmania a few years ago it puzzled me why so many live roosters were seen by the side of the road, wandering along in groups of two or three. I only later found out that these roadside gangs are the result of there being no natural predators in the region, and too many roosters.
While the rooster road gangs don’t pose any immediate threat — I mean, they’re not holding up wagon trains or anything — the dumping of any animal isn’t ideal.
As we are not considering the coq-au-vin solution, another alternative is to donate them to the zoo, where they become a “gift” for the tigers.
Even if we do find a solution to our problem, there’s another issue we face. The chickens aren’t exactly hatched in eggs with pink or blue shells — we don’t know which is a rooster until we hear cock-a-doodle-doo. And by then they may have already embarked on full-time rooster duties.
So what started out as a little backyard family has turned into a serious chicken population and will continue to grow unless I can sort out my Cillas from my Cyrils.
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