Thursday, 2 June 2011

Roosters and Hens and Gumbo

By Danelle at My Total Perspective Vortex

We keep a flock of about 20 laying hens and have 3 roosters. I was watching the chickens today while enjoying the sunshine and collecting eggs and I considered something. Quite a few of my city peers who keep backyard chickens have problems we rarely see with our flock and it occurred to me that the underlying problem is that they are not allowed to have roosters! They have baby meat birds and adult hens, which is fine to a point and certainly appropriate for a backyard flock, but some of the more common problems with raccoons in the coop and chickens running around confused when they should head for cover might easily be solved if they had a rooster. Chickens have to either be trained carefully or have an active leader.

I think that most people don't understand the flock dynamics and importance of the rooster.

Our roosters do more than just fertilize eggs. They guide the hens in, they ward off predators (and small children), they sound the alarm in storms or threat. They break up hen fights. I have even seen them guard the baby chicks when they are first integrated into the bigger flock. When I set out scraps for them to eat, the roosters come running and THEN call to the hens if the food is to their liking. We free range, run of the farm, our chickens so they are not penned from predators during the day. We have lost some to neighbor dogs and hawks, but the majority of predators are kept at bay by the roosters and our dogs.

Chickens are not stupid, they just rely on a rooster ruled and protected society. Watching and observing this dynamic over the last 3 years has been interesting, we still have one of our original roosters and 4 hens from that brood too. He, Chicken Nugget, has really mellowed out but is still very much the head guy. He has intervened and fought back Mr. Stripey when MS gets agitated with the human children. Our third rooster is a banty cross and is more like a hen in temperament.

Roosters can be overly aggressive too and then, at our house at least, they are shortly turned into gumbo. Rooster gumbo is a fine dish, and my three year old daughter likes to brag that the mean yellow rooster is now in her belly. :)

Here is my recipe for rooster gumbo:

Andouille sausage (1 lb), cut into bite size pieces

1 onion, chopped smaller than bite size
3 stalks of celery, chopped bite size
1 red bell pepper, chopped bite size
1 clove or garlic crushed and minced (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)
1 Tbs of seasoning salt (like Swamp Fire or Slap Yo Mama)
1 Tbs of dried parsley
2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of rooster (or chicken or duck) broth
meat from the rooster produced in the broth making

Fry bacon slices and sausage
Add celery, crushed garlic, bell pepper, and onions
When everything is fried up and spattering, add the broth
Bring to a boil and then simmer.
Make roux with melted butter and flour, add to soup to thicken. 

Optional: okra.

I used Jasmine rice to serve it over, but traditionally long grain is used.

It's pretty much interchangeable with my duck gumbo recipe. Often, instead of rice, I will cut up potatoes and add that. Top the soup with cheese before serving with crusty bread.

What are your thoughts on or experiences with roosters?