We have chickens free ranging here at Howling Duck Ranch. This is Pavarotti, the patriarch of the flock. We bought the place in April 2005 and he hatched out in May that same year. He is one of the first livestock to live on the farm; I hatched him myself. My first son, as it were. He is now three years old, as old as the farm.
Pavarotti is a gentleman with his ladies. He spends his time finding food and clucking to his gals when he locates tasty morsels, then lets them eat from his beak; I hardly ever see him eat. He is also a great ‘watch-rooster’. He lets me know if there are foxes about with a particular cluck: fa-Ox, fa-Ox, fa-Ox. The cluck for deer is entirely different: da-da-da-DEER. He has a call for when my neighbour is on her way through the treed fence-line, and another for hawks and overhead danger. I’m not kidding. Chickens have a language, and you can learn it if you are attentive.
Lots of folks tell me that roosters can be stroppy or vicious. Maybe, but not Pav. He’s a keeper, and will live out his days on the farm into old age. Any new young roosters that challenge him get put in the pot. Ones that know who’s king get to stay and add to the gene pool. As for the gals, I let all my hens express themselves as chickens; if they want to become mothers, then they are free to do so. This is an unusual farming practice; today, thanks to genetic modification, we are breeding broodiness out of chickens, because what industry wants is a chicken who lays an egg every day. like clock-work. Most of these factory farmed hens (including the organic and so-called ‘free range’ varieties), of course, never see the light of day, let alone get the chance to become a mother. In fact, they generally die of exhaustion at the ripe old age of two or less.
It is all part of my ‘ethical’ farming practices: to let each animal be what they were meant to be, not just a food machine for human consumption.
Check back here for future updates and photos of the chickens on the farm.