We now have a flock of six chickens. I would like to say we have a flock of six hens, but…
Two of our chickens were hatched at my daughter’s elementary school eco lab. They have been sweetly loved and cared for, hand fed and petted every day of their young lives. One is orange, the other brown. Their names have varied from Lola and Zoe to Trick and Treat, but as their personalities emerge those names, which haven’t really stuck, will be replaced with monikers more appropriate, or at least more catchy.
Problem is…we have no idea the sex of these birds. When I decided to increase the flock to 6 I contacted a local chicken breeder who agreed to look them over and see if she could help us determine whether we had hens or roosters, or both. We put the babies in a cat carrier, hauled them out to the boonies and…she really has no idea. They are just too young to tell with any degree of certainty. Since the brown one is so pretty – and male birds tend to be the striking ones – there is a good possibility that it is a rooster. Paige, the chicken lady, even attempted to use an old wives tale method to figure this out, holding the bird to see if both legs hang down or if one remains lifted. But both of the chicks exhibited both behaviors. Dang!
Why does this matter, you ask? Because the city of San Diego has kindly adopted new ordinances that allow chickens to be kept within city limits – but no roosters allowed. Now, we already have two roosters happily residing in the neighborhood, so it is obvious that ordinances can be flouted with relative abandon. But I am an earnest, rule-following (to an extent) kind of gal, and I love my closest neighbors and don’t want to disturb their peace of mind (or good will). If we have a rooster, he will have to go. And this makes me very sad because both of these little critters are gentle, love to be held, and funny.
You might also be asking why I am not worried about the other four birds we brought home yesterday. They are the same size (relatively speaking) as the original two and should also be hard to define gender-wise, right? Well, no. The other four are Black Stars, a variety known as “sex-link” chickens, bred so that from birth it is easy to determine which are hens and which are roosters. With 95% frequency these chickens are born with visible markers specific to the sex. Black chicks are female, those with white markings are male. Pretty simple and remarkably effective.
I keep trying to convince the other two that they are girls – think like girls! Act like girls! Imagine laying eggs! D’ya think it’ll work?