The Ballad of Elliot & Frank: Or, Thoughts on Killing a Rooster

This weekend, we slaughtered our first chicken.  It wasn’t planned.  And the fact that it wasn’t planned is the understatement of all understatements.  You see, for the longest time, we’ve been a two rooster flock.  Elliot and Frank arrived with our first shipment of chicks just about a year ago.  Elliot started out as the dominant rooster.  He was larger, better liked by the hens and — all in all — the better rooster.  Frank was more docile, a quieter bird, though his personality had a hint of the temperamental.  If one of the roosters was going to get nervous, it was always Frank.

In April, we separated the flock.  As I preferred Elliot and wanted to definitely keep him another season, we elected to breed Frank to the majority of our flock, leaving Broody & Henrietta with Elliot for company (and breeding next year).

As soon as the breeding period passed, we attempted to reintegrate the flock.  Big mistake.  Though we took it slowly and tried very casually to let the roosters see each other again in the backyard, they puffed and proceeded to start what I can only describe as the most terrifying chicken fight I’ve ever seen.  Luckily, Jason was better prepared than I and quickly yanked Elliot out of harm’s way before I could intervene.  Frank’s maturation to flock leader had clearly changed his temperament.

I’d hoped that over time, we could reintegrate the roosters; however, after the fight, Frank grew increasingly more aggressive.  He flew up in my face if I got too close to his girls, and whenever one flock was free-ranging, the loose roo would go and harass whomever was still in the tractor.  Things came to a head on Saturday, when Frank attacked Jason while he was walking towards the garden.  There was no provocation; he had simply walked by Frank and the girls.  Sadly, enough was enough.  I’ve always held with the school of thought that roosters need to maintain their flock security but they need to be productive members of the family.  A rooster that attacks without reason is a rooster that needs to go to the stew pot, especially given the fact that in a few weeks there are going to be a lot of people at the house.

I separated Frank into solitary confinement and reintegrated Elliot, Broody and Henrietta with the flock, and after two more days of increasing aggression from Frank, we made the difficult decision to slaughter him.

Now, when I had our broilers slaughtered in September and October, we took them to the Amish; however, given that this was only one bird, it was a long weekend, and we felt that it was important to our flock management, we decided to dispatch Frank ourselves.  We used Ussery’s book as a guide, utilizing his chopping block method, and I must report that slaughtering our first chicken was a quick and humane process that took about 1.5 hours from start to finish. And while I’m sad that we’ve lost Frank, 28 of his offspring are currently in our incubator, and we’ll hopefully find one young roo who will discover a place in our flock.

My advice for those of you who need to remove a member or two from your flock: read up carefully and consider trying it yourself.  One of the most beneficial parts of the weekend was getting to understand chicken anatomy a bit more, while practicing herd management.  I’m hoping that this move will have the added benefit of de-stressing our hens a bit, as a 2:8 ratio of hens to roosters was a bit too high.

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