If you have been following along with our story here for long, you are aware that we have had some fertility issues with our head rooster, Boaz.
Boaz is a big, handsome Dark Brahma rooster, who is very gentle and kind to everyone.
He is also an excellent flock leader. He alerts the girls to danger, breaks up squabbles amongst the hens, and tells everyone where the best food is. In this pic he is showing the girls a broccoli scrap he found.
Last winter he lost two toes on one foot to frostbite, but despite the infection he was able to fight through it and heal.
8 weeks ago, he gave us 93% fertility on about 40 eggs. Two weeks later his fertility had dropped down to 30% on 14 eggs. We thought it might be some flock social issues, since we had just shuffled some hens around and into his pen, so we let it go and moved on. Meanwhile, my hens backs were getting torn up pretty thoroughly (to the point I made them little jackets to protect their backs) as he struggled to balance for breeding with only one good foot. Last week we candled the 18 eggs we had under broodies for over a week and found that every single one was infertile.
We contemplated what could have caused this. He hadn’t been ill at all, but he did lose all his tail feathers in a matter of a day or maybe two days. We figured the hens had picked at him, but then we thought maybe he had a tiff with a predator of some kind and lost his tail in the process and thus was stressed, which could have caused infertility. It was a possibility, but seemed like a long shot because of that 30% fertility from 6 weeks ago. It seemed more likely it was something that had been coming on for awhile.
We immediately began a careful watching of the chickens several times a day to see what we could find out. What we found was that as Boaz has filled out and grown in the last few months, he has become too big to successfully breed the hens with only one good foot. Over several days we have seen multiple attempts and none was successful. Additionally, we grabbed some eggs (a full two weeks after the last 18 were collected) and stuck them in the incubator to see if it was a short-term fertility issue that had figured itself out or not. All those eggs turned out to be infertile too. Because of the 30% fertility 6 weeks ago, and over 2 weeks of 0% fertility, plus the fact that we haven’t seen a successful breeding for days, we are confidant that the issue is his size and only having one good foot, and that it will not be something that can be reversed or fixed over time.
Sadly, this means Boaz has to go, since the whole point of us having a rooster is for him to breed and Bo can’t do that. It is going to be a tough one, since we had pictured him as being our head roo for the next few years and thus had kind of gotten attached to him. We are very glad that he has given us several big handsome cockerels this year to choose from as his replacement.
Sometimes these homestead decisions are not easy. I’m going to miss that big guy.