My young rooster was killed.
I wrote about the beer soaked cockerel an acquaintance stuck me with on Halloween. Roland. I took my time integrating him with my hens after a few scuffles early on. I made him sleep in a different building and I made him range free around their pen for about 10 days during the day. I finally put him in with them one night and went out early in the morning to find everybody behaving civilly. That night, though, when all the hens left the pen through the chicken door headed for bed, Roland remained out in the pen. I found him there in the dark and took him in and put him in the house. I think I had to do that on 3 evenings. After that he went in with the old hens at night on his own and all has been fine for at least two weeks. I have not seen any recent acts of aggression.
I thought it would be nice to let the birds free range on Thanksgiving. We weren't going to be out late and I left the hen house open so the birds could go home to roost if it got dark before I got home. I did get home late, well 6:30, and went into the henhouse and started patting birds in the dark to count them. I couldn't feel Roland and I knew I was only feeling 13 birds, not 15, so I went across the street, got a flashlight and went back where I found Roland lying on the henhouse floor with his throat slit. He was untouched otherwise. My favorite little red hen was missing, too, so I imagined that a fox took her and Roland ran up, wing dragging, to defend her and was killed. That scenario made sense. I felt horrible about it all the next day.
Yesterday, the little red hen showed up, so I could not imagine what would have killed Roland, and only Roland, and then not taken his body.
When the red hen showed up yesterday morning, 36 hours missing, I had to eliminate fox. What else could it be that would leave him in the house with only his throat slit? A dog whom he attacked first? (Mine was locked in the house or I'd have suspected her. She HATED Roland.)
I thought weasel, but I thought it was too early in the day.
And I thought that a weasel would kill more than one bird. I've read that they'll sometimes neatly line up their victims. There was nothing, as far as I know, to disturb a slaughter if the predator was so inclined. My dog was in the house.
My brain unfolds veeerrry slooowly when there's a disaster, and I am totally without logic. And I don't see the whole picture (or even a sixteenth of the picture) Sitting here right now, I'm amazed that I actually didn't and can't examine him too closely. I know his throat was badly damaged. There was very little blood. I think the rest of him was untouched. There were not very many feathers on the ground, if any. I ran my eyes over each chicken that night to see if they had been bloodied and they all seemed all right.
Then a friend asked something that made my blood run kinda cool. He said, "Could it be a hen?"
I really, really would hate to think so. After about ten days living alone and sleeping alone, but ranging with them finally outdoors fairly civilly, often having sex with a 2x4 or a leaf whenever one of them hunkered down near him, I finally integrated them and there seemed to be no problems for the last 18 days. I have not in all this time allowed him outside (free ranging) ( I haven't allowed all of the hens out at the same time, either, though.) So Thanksgiving Day, for a treat, I let them all out. I gave them a squash and some apples and everyone seemed very happy together. We drove off and could see all the birds standing in the road looking after the car.
I don't think that there was enough blood or feathers for a chicken fight, but I'm not sure that a rooster would defend itself against a hen. My two experiences with young roosters is that they're pretty gentlemenly. I've only owned chickens three or four years, though. A friend's hens killed two roosters once. But that was the very first night they all met. My birds had been living in harmony for more than two weeks. They should have been used to each other. I wasn't supposed, per the book on rooster taming, to let Roland have sex in front of me (with a hen), but I suspect that by the end, he had finally figured it out.
I did look the chickens over that night, but superficially. I think I might have noticed blood on their beaks.
Ellen, my dog, smelled the ground very enthusiastically where I had originally surmised the fox had traveled---back when I thought it was a fox. But Ellen is not a dog whose judgment can be trusted.
The one bad thing I'm thinking is: Maybe that night, when it became roosting time, which would have been the first time that Roland had gone home with the hens through the main door into the house, one of them said, "Oh, no you don't."
I wonder, though, at the notable lack of blood anywhere.