It’s funny how things change. For the longest time, JB was not only Head Rooster, but he was also the best-looking and the best caretaker for the ladies. Granted, he whacked me in the leg with his wings a couple of times, but he was mostly just doing his job. He was my clear favorite, for what it was worth, over the mean Chicken Soup (he used to bite me and be rough with the ladies) and the forgettable and shy Luke.
However, that’s all really not the case now. Chicken Soup has moved his way steadily up to the position of my number one favorite. He long ago got over the biting issue and has quietly evolved into our best-looking and manliest rooster. The above pic is from nearly a month ago and is the best I’ve got. Lately it has been gray, dark, and rainy almost non-stop and taking decent pictures is nearly impossible. Today it was like night outside basically all day from the cloud cover. Anyway, Soup is now by far the largest chicken we have; he’s taller, broader, stronger than the others by a lot. He’s huge. He also is the only one with a “correct” comb (each breed standard has its own definition – for Marans it’s five triangular points on a large, single comb). I’ll have to do a photo session soon to show you.
Beyond all that, he’s really become nice and mellow and a true charmer with the ladies. He sings to them and calls ecstatically when he finds a bug or a nice seed. He never takes the good stuff for himself. He is also on the lookout for predators the most often and calls, “HAWK!!” emphatically every few minutes whether there is a hawk or not (better safe than sorry, no?). All this and he is also the only rooster, now, that has not tried to “attack” me. A week or two ago, Luke tried to give it a go. He’s really been feeling his oats lately and I’m not amused. Soup will also hang out with me at my feet and he even lets me pet his back a little now and then. I’m a sucker for anything I could possibly view as “friendliness” or “affection,” so it wins him big points.
The reason I’m writing about Soup today is that I’m a little worried about him. This afternoon, when I let the chickens out for some time in the grass, he was one of the last ones out, and he was moving a little slowly. I immediately noticed that he had blood all over his comb, face, wattles, neck, and beak. I had several thoughts comes at me, rapid-fire. Had he been in a fight? They’d never fought in the coop before… Had he been picking on one of the girls? He’s always been so nice to them… Had he caught a rat in the coop and given it what-for? Was he sick and coughing blood?
A fight seemed the most likely option, even though the other boys had no blood on them. I checked the coop and run but found no dead rats. I looked at all the ladies and they were unscathed. As the other chickens went about their normal business of scratching, pecking, running, flapping, etc, Soup stayed near the coop and hid under the white plastic folding table. He just stood there with his head tucked down into his fluffed-up neck feathers, looking forlorn. He didn’t scratch or peck… he didn’t even come running when JB mounted a lady (the other two ALWAYS run over to the event and cheer JB on and then often try to get a piece of the action themselves afterward). Something was clearly wrong. At one point, he came out from under the table and JB came running from where he was and tried to chase him down. Soup shied away immediately and kept his distance. Twice while we were out, Luke came over to Soup, under the table, and did his mocking courting dance (wing drop, dance in a circle on tippy toes while singing)… after the second dance, Luke stretched his neck way up high over Soup’s lowered head, and then pecked him hard in the face. Soup just cowered and took the beating.
Because of the cocky behavior from the other two boys, I have to believe that Soup badly lost a fight. Perhaps the loss even demoted him to lowest-rooster (usually he’s #2). I am hoping he was just sore from the fight… maybe even a little dazed…. and mostly just sad – not sick. At one point, he even let me pick him up with very little resistance. I checked him for other injuries but found none. I think he had a small cut on his comb, which could have been the source for all of the blood, as I’ve learned combs and wattles bleed like crazy. I hadn’t held him since he was full-grown. He’s HUGE. I wish I had a picture of him in my arms so you could see. Anyway, he seemed heavy and fluffy and in good healthy. He kicked at me with his legs half-heartedly, but mostly just stared at me, open-mouthed while I held him. It was like he was in shock.
When I got my herding stick and started to round everyone up to head back to the coop, he put himself away… first and alone. He waited from inside the run while I collected everyone else from the far reaches of the ag-area (short for “agricultural area” – the fenced-off portion of our yard that holds the vegetable garden, mini-orchard, berry patch, and chicken coop) and ushered them back into the run. The boys are always among the last to go in. So, I am worried. I really hope it was just a fight with external cuts and wounded pride and nothing more.