I’m infatuated with Elvis….no, not the King of Rock ‘n Roll, but Elvis, our rooster. Technically, he is a cockerel as he is a male rooster less than a year old. From the moment we started raising chickens, I was in love with them. It is amazing to me that such a simple animal serves so many purposes.
Our hens lay almost every day which provides our family with a much needed supply of wholesome protein. Because we free range them, the eggs are simply amazing with dark and beautiful yolks and they taste better than any eggs I have ever eaten. Our farm raised meat chickens have provided us a freezer full of meat to use in recipes ranging from King Ranch Chicken to Chicken and Dumplings to smoked or roasted bird. But the coolest thing about our chickens is that we have the opportunity to get to know them and learn about their natural behaviors…why they do what they do. We get to build relationships with them. I know you’re probably thinking, “Relationships with chickens…she really has lost her mind.”
It’s true. From the beginning, I fell in love with Mary (our accidental rooster….that’s another story!) and our hens. They all have very unique personalities and it is so fun to watch them interact with us and with one another. For example, Mary spends all day with his hens and is on a constant mission to protect them. It is literally his life’s work. He guides them to the best sources of food; he herds them into the coop when there is danger; he ensures that they all go back inside each night. And most of all, he protects them from the other roosters on the Farm that aren’t part of their flock. It is exhausting to watch him work all day long. He will also come after you if he feels any threat to his hens. I’m telling you, if you’ve never been chased by a rooster, you’re lucky.
As our flocks have grown, we’ve developed different kinds of relationships with some of our chickens but there has been none like Elvis. He was raised up with the guineas and a few other roosters. As the guineas matured, they became wilder. They wander further from their shelter; they don’t sleep in a coop; they roost in a tree. They are constantly on the move. I guess Elvis decided he couldn’t keep up with them so he moved himself into the barn. Because he was raised with the guineas, he is not afraid to fly high into the top part of the barn. He has found safety roosting in the eaves where no other roosters or predators can reach him. He was aptly named Elvis for his prolific sideburns. He sneaks around, hiding from the other roosters through the day to forage for food and stay busy. (His momma feeds him a little extra in several secret hiding places too.) We started handling him every day because he seemed a little lonesome. Over the past few weeks, he has started following me around. Every time I walk out of the house or get out of my car, he rushes out of the barn, many times flying like a hawk from the eaves, to greet his momma. He literally follows us everywhere we go, unless it’s too far or there are too many other roosters around. He prefers for us to carry him from one place to the next as we are doing daily chores.
I have been so intrigued by his behavior so I started researching whether or not this is normal since it is atypical for our other roosters. If I tried to pick up Mary, I’m pretty sure I would have scars from it.
Though not common, there are roosters that are super affectionate to their people. There is a “rooster dance” where male chickens pull down a side wing and do a side-step. This is generally reserved for a hen and is a sign of affection and acknowledgement that you are his. He does this little jig almost every time he sees me. At first I thought it was a sign of aggression but he always wants me to pick him up afterward, so I’ve learned that it’s just his way of telling us he needs some love. How amazing is that? I wish we could all be a little more willing to tell our people when we need some love.
I know everybody says not to get attached to your livestock, but I just can’t help it, I’m in love with Elvis. It is one of the many highlights of my day when I walk outside and he flies from the rafters and eagerly comes to greet me. It makes me laugh as he follows us around the farm. It gives me joy that I can pick him up anytime I want and that he loves being hugged on.
I may be turning into a “crazy chicken lady” and I may get my heart broken when realities of farm life happen to Elvis. It’s not an easy life for a chicken. There is cold weather and predators and other sad things that can happen that I’d rather not think about this morning.
Instead, I think I’ll put on my boots and go out for a visit with my “hunka hunka burnin’ love”