Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mystery Rooster

One day, a rooster showed up on the doorstep of---not our house, but the henhouse. He'd been wandering in the desert for who knows-how-long and found his way to our chicken coop with its five cute redheads (what luck!). He looked healthy, maybe a little thin, and he was friendly when we approached to give him food and water. We had no idea where he came from; we had never heard a single cockle-doodle-do in our neighborhood before. 

Rex the mystery rooster on the day he showed up.

We named him Rex and let him into the coop; he got along swimmingly with the hens, at least as far as we could tell. He was friendly at first. He appeared to be the same breed as our five hens (Rhode Island Red).

We can only guess at where he came from. These are the theories:

  • Someone was trying to get rid of an unwanted rooster, and dropped him off near our house. Although this is the most likely answer, it's still perplexing because it wouldn't have been that easy for someone from outside the neighborhood to even know we had a chicken coop hidden in the junipers. He might have just been dropped off in the arroyo to die, but by coincidence, found his way to a chicken-keeping family.

  • He escaped from a nearby coop and found his way to our house.  Unlikely, because we had never heard crowing in the neighborhood and we aren't aware of any other neighbors with chickens.

  • The most outlandish theory of all: remember how we started off with five cute little hens who were killed on their third day in our coop?  Well, two of them were Rhode Island Reds and they were still too young to be conclusively sexed; what if one of them was actually a rooster, and survived the dog/coyote attack, and had been somehow living nearby?  Rex showed up about three and a half months after the first batch of chickens were killed, and could plausibly have been the right age (he was either malnourished or not fully grown). What makes this scenario really unlikely is that we were in the midst of a drought, during the driest months of the year, and there are so many predators out there that I don't think a very young rooster would have the skills to survive. Plus, we never heard any crowing.
Other theories are certainly welcome. I am pretty sure his origin will remain one of the great mysteries of our lives.

A full-grown Rex imitating the chicken cutout on the henhouse.
Eventually, Rex's initial docility wore off, and he started to aggressively protect his harem whenever anyone came in the coop. He woke us up (and probably the neighbors, although none complained to us) every morning before dawn. But we kept him anyway, muttering to ourselves about making rooster stew every morning as he woke us up at 4:30 am. 

After the hens stopped laying, he did, ultimately, get butchered along with them (and eaten), so he's gone now. RIP, Rex.