Submission accomplished

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When our chickens began to come of age we noticed a change in their behavior. Over the summer, when they were heedless adolescents, they were all but impossible to catch. They’d come running when you came out of the house with a chicken treat, but if you bent over or reached out or knelt down they’d scamper out of reach. They emphatically did not want to be caught.

Then, in early September, one of them started acting strangely. If you reached out to touch her, instead of running away, she’d squat down, extend her wings a bit, and sometimes even tremble. It looked as though she were petrified, but if you picked her up she’d nestle under your arm quite contentedly.

The next week, another one started doing it, and then a third. On the 22nd (as those of you who follow this space already know), we got our first egg. “Coincidence?” I wondered. I thought not.

Our official chicken-raising text, Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry (“the Storey book,” Kevin calls it), is silent on the subject of the chicken squat, so I turned to the more comprehensive but less reliable Internet. A review of chicken-related web sites indicates that it is either A) submissive behavior, B) mating behavior, or C) submissive mating behavior. It is, however, universally acknowledged to be a precursor for egg-laying.

My experience with roosters is limited, but they look to me to be overbearing, aggressive, and large. If a hen weren’t submissive, I imagine the barnyard battles would be epic and very little mating would go on, so I’m figuring submissiveness is necessary for the propagation of the species.

A couple weeks ago, our last hold-out started squatting. Blondie’s development was so far behind that of her seven flockmates that Kevin suspected she was a rooster. The squat was almost enough to convince him of her henhood, but it wasn’t until our first eight-egg day that he really believed.

It’s official. Eight hens, no roosters.

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Comments

  1. And, if you keep your hens until they’re elderly ladies, you will see that they stop squatting to be ‘tread’ by the rooster, and even develop spurs on their feet like a rooster, perhaps to defend themselves, perhaps it’s a hormonal thing (the chicken equivalent to growing a moustache and wearing big underpants?!?).

    Our very old gals do NOT tolerate male attention and the roosters seem to lose interest in them when they’re past breeding age.

    8 hens is great news – have you planned what to do with your egg glut yet? They’re a great bartering item. I just paid my accountant in eggs.

  2. congratulations! Did you buy them all unsexed?

  3. Jen — Given our limited coop space, we’re planning to avoid running an old-age home for the chickens. When their laying days are over, they’re headed for the stewpot, so they will never see the Age of Big Underpants.

    As for the egg glut, we’re finding that our friends and neighbors enjoy them as much as we do. And I’m planning on experimenting with souffles and quiches. I’m going to feel out my accountant, but I suspect he’ll still want hard cold cash.

    Paula — We bought what were supposed to be hens, but Murray McMurray (the hatchery) says they only have about a 95% success rate. With eight chickens, that gives us a two-in-five chance that one is a rooster. We were in the lucky three-fifths.