We had a long walk today, and a long think. Seeing the huge cockerels last night and thinking about the potential of 2 of these being hatched from the 4 eggs we bought was a sobering thought.
One of the reasons we re-home ex-commercial hens is to give these girls as peaceful and stressless an environment to live in as we can provide. They’ve had a tough time in their previous life and come out at 18 months old feather-bare, not sure what is happening to them, and unfortunately carrying the tolls of them being bred to produce as many eggs as they can in a 12 month period.
To then add a large, imposing cockerel into the mix and the ‘attention’ he’d give them doesn’t seem fair on their frail bodies. In addition, we’ve read that the hens would become ‘his’ hens, not ours, and even simple things that we enjoy doing, such as sitting with the girls of an evening watching then get on with being hen,s would probably be met with defensive or aggressive behaviour from their new leader. Whilst having a cockerel would help with integrations and change the whole dynamic of the flock and provide an additional layer of protection for the girls, we decided not to use the fertile eggs.
There was a final option available to us that would seem to resolve the issues we had, so simple that I’m surprised we didn’t think of it sooner! All we had to do was to buy some day old female chicks and give them to Ruby to adopt! If we got them now she wouldn’t have to go through 21 days of sitting on the eggs, losing condition, and we could go on holiday leaving Ruby and the chicks at home, as they’d be few weeks old and more settled.
There is however the ethical issue of taking only female chicks. If we had decided to use fertile eggs then we were prepared to home 2 cockerels with the current group or a future group, until we fully realised the size of the cockerels and the impact of a male on the girls. By only taking female chicks, we’re ignoring the fate of the males that would have been hatched by the breeder.
This doesn’t sit well with us, but the reason we’re doing this is for Ruby, and giving her the chance to do what her body is telling her to do.