Well, everyone is still in the main paddock right now, all breeds, just growing out until the day they give me some eggs. The Brabanters ended up with around seventeen breed worthy hens (which I will have to recount soon.) I thought I had fifteen roosters but it turns out I have twenty! Fifteen was insane enough, I draw the line at twenty! Maybe I wouldn’t if they weren’t the bane of my existence but this is what they have been up to…
First they were getting loud so I spent two and a half hours putting No-Crow collars on all my boys, including the Brabanters which took up the bulk of my time because they were, as usual, running around screaming at the top of their lungs, panicking the rest of the barn, and trying desperately not to be caught. Before I even got done collaring them and setting them lose four had already gotten them off and left them lying in the dirt in the pasture. If that’s not enough to make you want to kill them the next series of events certainly is.
I should mention the Brabanters crow like nothing I have heard before. It is not the deep manly sound of a dignified rooster. It’s the shrill shrieking of nails on chalkboard and they’re all insistent on out-shrieking each other. I don’t mind crowing, but this was making me homicidal. Add to the fact they were pecking each others collars off and I was feeling more a little agitated at the situation. Remember in Jurassic Park when the main cast kept getting outsmarted by velociraptors? That’s how I was feeling… this feeling got worse as they began terrorizing the barnyard.
While some of my hens started to show genuine curiosity in me and what I was doing the roosters were insistent on beating the tar out of anyone near by. After plucking all of each other’s tails clean off they moved on to less fight worthy opponents. Now if a hen was standing in their way they’d viciously attack her, grabbing onto clunks of her feathers, making her scream, and refusing to let go until they found my boot up their ass! I have NO respect for roosters who are wife beaters. They have an uncanny ability to end up dinner at my place because yes, my hens deserve better! (See this sweet little hen? Don’t you think she deserves only the sweetest rooster? I think so.)
When they weren’t putting the hens in their place they were picking on the Dorkings and the Cornish (who are huge but think they’re quails and put up with a lot of shit.) After tormenting them they then turned to braver endeavors which included charging me (so long as I was walking away from them) and plucking fresh duck feathers off our sleeping water fowl (they would have put up far too much of a fight if they were awake!)
Between the crowing and the screaming of their victims they also liked to add constant alarm calls to the cacophony of noise. All day long you could see them head down, running full speed in a horizontal velociraptor pose, back to the barn while screaming their heads off. Why? In about 0.001% of these instances there was a hawk, the rest of the time they were screaming because their imaginary friends gave them the stink-eye, or a bug that was far too big flew by, or they could see me. Obviously I’m worse than a bear, especially when weeding the garden within their eyesight and God forbid I have anything in my hands – a shovel, a rake, a camera, a bowl of food – all got the same treatment. “THE SKY IS FALLING!!! THE SKY IS FALLING!!!” Clearly that fable is written about these birds. (As you can see in this photo of a curious hen there is a rooster in the background alarm calling his fool head off. You can also see two Dorkings completely ignoring him because they have learned the Brabanters are just mental.)
I had had enough, my hens had had enough, the other chickens had had enough, and I am sure my neighbors did too. I asked the wise chicken elders what to do. This was chaos. They told me make a bachelor pen out of sight of the girls, lock them away, and hope they grow some goddamn manners. So I spent another two hours weeding them out from the rest of the flock (in their coop/stall mind you) and putting their collars back on, half of which were missing after three days. I then threw them into their own hellish bachelor pad – an empty horse stall. I will give them access to their own pasture in a bit but for now I think they need the time out! After finding out there was 20 of them and not 15 I said nooo noooo nooo. I will be taking out the four with the Polish-looking head combs and whoever keeps getting out of their collar within minutes of putting it on. That’s not a skill I want to encourage! In the meanwhile they are pissed at me as could be… and all twenty of them go off as loud as they can alarm calling whenever I pass by their stall or have the audacity to feed them. They sound like three car alarms going off at once and they do not shut up. Yep, it’s time to weed some out. They provide a pathetic amount of meat – but waste not want not.
I was asked why I am still trying… and I don’t have a good answer. Maybe for the sake of the hens who are slowly growing to trust me, even if it is only very slightly. Maybe I am a masochist. Maybe I really do like an unending intellectual challenge. Maybe the idea of feeding the same number of large dual purpose birds makes me want to cry. I don’t know, but for now we’re sticking to this. And in the meanwhile, despite the fact my boyfriend now hates the Brabanters that I got because of him, I have decided to take it one step further by visiting a breeder in the Netherlands in a few months, in Brabant if possible. There I will use my boyfriend as a translator (which I know he just loooooves to do for me…) and ask a couple simple questions:
1) Are European Brabanters this insane?!
2) Do they breed “true” or is this going to be an unending pursuit to achieve beards and crests of perfection??
3) Anything else they’d like to add – history, personal stories, whatever.