Feeling Cocking - Part Two
The Man, The Legend, Mr. Cuddles
Mr. Cuddles has been a fixture in our lives for the past four years and, I will admit, there have been times when we have considered re-homing him. But we have resisted the urge because he is the only chicken left from our original group of six, representing where it all began.
So, we have learned to live with a particularly difficult and often ornery Rooster. He is temperamental, overly protective and can be rough with both the hens and the hands that care for him.
Roosters can have friendly dispositions but unfortunately for us, Mr. Cuddles has chosen not to embrace the sunny side up perspective on life!
I have determined that the best way for you to get to know Mr. Cuddles is to share stories that accurately depict our daily lives with him. Here are three tales that will help you visualize his dirty deeds.
Story #1: Mr. Cuddles and the Chicken-Sitter
Roosters are natural defenders and are driven by an instinct to protect their flock. They have even been known to sacrifice themselves in order to save their hens. This instinct to defend reveals itself in aggressive behavior, which unfortunately my husband and I have been on the receiving end of many times.
Picture this, a large angry feathered beast hurling himself at you with a thunderous flapping of wings and BAM! Savagely kicking you HARD with his massive spurs, tearing and bruising your flesh.
SPURS?! Yes. Check these out...
Luckily, I have discovered a survival tactic that defies our instinctive reaction to run fast and scream loudly. When the warning signs of imminent attack are evident, I stand my ground and stare into the eyes of the beast, mirroring his brazen attitude. And surprisingly it works (...most of the time)! My husband however has not yet fully embraced this strategy, preferring to arm himself with a stick, his defensive weapon of choice, which he uses to prod & shield himself as necessary.
One summer, my sister, Katie, agreed to Chicken-Sit for us while we were on vacation. I tried my best to coach her on how to deal with Mr. Cuddles’ advances and assured her my method would work. But despite my best efforts, she would send us daily reports about Mr. Cuddles’ abusive behaviour. While attempting to feed the chickens, he would intimidate, interrupt and often bully her out of the coop....excelling at being an all round jerk!
One day my gentle sister decided that she would no longer bow down to Mr. Cuddles’ hen house tyranny.
She entered the coop, rose up to her full 5’9 height and stared him down. Mr. Cuddles did not disappoint; emboldened by past successes, he began to make his attack but this time Katie was ready with her a surprise of her own. As Mr. Cuddles launched himself into the air, to his shock, Katie threw a full jug of cold water into his face! From that day forward, there was a grudging mutual respect for each other and a silently acknowledged truce in the hen house.
Story #2: Mr. Cuddles and His Lover
One of the biggest shocks we’ve had in caring for our brood of chickens has been witnessing the romantic overtures of Mr. Cuddles towards the hens. There is very little courting, definitely no affection and absolutely zero tenderness. When Mr. Cuddles decides it’s time to get down to business, he is a bull in a china shop. He clumsily tries to hop onto the hen’s back, using his wings for balance. If the hen is not in the mood to accommodate his balancing act, she will signal her rejection by knocking him off balance and quickly scoot away. But sometimes the hen decides to lift her tail feathers and Mr. Cuddles gets lucky.
(This is not a successful attempt, but it is rather gentle for Mr. Cuddles!)
The first summer Mr. Cuddles reached maturity, I noticed my favourite hen, Skittles (RIP), was loosing feathers on her back and wings.
After carefully observing the activities in the coop, I discovered that Skittles was not only MY favourite hen, she was MC’s favourite too. To my horror, I realized that his frequent lovemaking was tearing out the feathers on her back and wings.
Off I ran to consult with my good friend, Google, and was relieved to learn that this is a common problem. Roosters often pick favourites but luckily the creative people in the chicken world have designed “Chicken Aprons” or “Chicken Capes” that can be put on the hen, like a back pack, to prevent feather loss and discourage the aggressive Rooster. Luckily for Skittles, she looked like a badass superhero in her cape and it worked!
Story #3: Mr. Cuddles and the Bullmastiff
Around the same time we purchased our first group of chickens, we decided that we needed a guard dog. We purchased a beautiful bullmastiff, Murphy, who is the love of my husband’s life (I have come to accept my #2 status). As she grew and matured, she revealed an instinctive prey drive with the chickens often being the object of her attention.
One summer day I was cleaning the chicken coop, I had made sure all of the chickens were out in the run enjoying the sun while I dutifully shoveled their poop, all part of the glamorous life with chickens! Once I had finished my duties and was exiting the coop, I failed to noticed Mr. Cuddles sneak back in to inspect what I was up to. (He likes to keep a watchful eye on me when I am working in his territory.) As he wandered in while my back was turned, he made the grave mistake of trying to capitalize on the situation and went into full attack mode, flying at me just as I was stepped out of the coop doorway. What Mr. Cuddles did not realize was that Murphy was ready and waiting on the other side of the coop for just this sort of opportunity.
To my horror, I turned around as Mr. Cuddles was executing his signature flying jump kick out of the coop with Murphy in full attack mode, lunging towards the coop.
Murphy hits me, I hit Mr. Cuddles and we all go flying to the ground. Realizing his mistake, Mr. Cuddles takes off at full tilt, running and jumping, screaming around the yard with a 100lb Bullmastiff on his tail feathers and me in hot pursuit of both of them.
The three of us raced crazily around the yard and somehow Mr. Cuddles managed to re-locate the coop and dive in just as I tackled Murphy to the ground and slammed the coop door closed. For the next 3hrs we could hear the protests and outrage of Mr. Cuddles from inside the coop, calling in all of his girls and refusing to let them leave the coop the rest of the day. For the next couple of weeks, Mr. Cuddles was on his best behaviour but it didn’t last....