I’m happy to welcome a new member to my farm. Melvin has chosen my farm, Mystic Maples, as his home. Melvin is a bantam barred rock rooster as far as I know. I’ve had to come up to speed on poultry very quickly since he’s moved in. I’ve spent late nights on google and even watched a full length chicken documentary on youtube.
My neighbor directly across the street has lots of chickens. His best guess is that my little bantam rooster was abandoned in the neighborhood by one of the many urban keepers who have limited space, and wish to only keep hens.
For reasons only known to Melvin, he chose my completely birdless farm as his home.
He seems to love horses and isn’t nervous of their enquiring muzzles. He stands calmly next to hooves that are nearly as big as he is. By day Melvin chose to doze in the barn between my mares. He sat nearby and watched for over an hour two days in a row as I hammered away on his new coop, only to disappear completely as I was ready to show it to him. I wandered the yard calling his name and looked high and low in the various sheds on my land.
Every night before dusk Melvin disappeared. I worried for his safety, knowing that my area is teeming with wildlife such as eagles, owls, vultures and racoons that would gladly snack on a little rooster.
One evening, while folding laundry, I saw Melvin striding across the corner of the horse paddock very purposefully. I guessed he was on his way to his secret hideout. I watched with interest.
He leaped up onto a lumber pile in the trees and balanced on a single raised board. Then he leaped on to a very low hanging branch and tight roped his way up higher. With an awkward flap he leapt to another branch and then another, until he was nearly 14 feet off the ground up in the trees. He reminded me of a fat squirrel with ineffective wings in the Cirque de Soleil.
Melvin sleeps in the same spot every night, puffed up on a branch.
Over the weekend we completed Melvin’s new chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is not a John Deer for chickens to drive. (Disappointing…I know.) It’s actually a mini chicken coop on wheels with a run attached that you can move around the yard.
The chicken tractor is secure from predators and my hope is to find a couple of hens to keep Melvin company.
I desperately wanted Melvin to go in his new coop and found that my urge was always to pounce on Melvin and grab him. Instead I’ve reminded myself that I want a good relationship with my little feathered friend. I’ve patiently sat waiting with food in my hand and now he comes running when I call and eats from my palm. I can wave my hands around and he no longer darts away.
I’ve taught him to go in his coop by spreading food in and around the door. I’ve resisted the urge to give his fluffy rear end a nudge and slam the door behind him as soon as he is in. I’ve learned trailering horses that it’s best to let them wander in on their own. I want Melvin to feel like his coop is his home. He has learned to confidently walk in and out without the wary look he had earlier.
Today is the first day that Melvin is shut in his tractor. He has been sleeping on and off all day so he doesn’t appear to be stressed. Soon I will hopefully have some friends for him and I can acclimatize them all to the new coop. I still intend for them to free range, but at night I want them to choose the coop as their home.
For now Melvin will need to stay in his new tractor until he views the coop as his night time roost. Hopefully he won’t miss his perch in the forest too much.
I’m pleased that I’ve taken some time to gain Melvin’s trust instead of nabbing him. My plan soon is to tame him to the petting stage. I will take this slowly, even though once again, instinct is to just grab the little guy and pet him until he stops struggling. The human urge to grab is intense from the time we’re toddlers. Remember to resist the urge to snatch at your horse too. If your horse draws away just let it happen. They will come back if you let them go.