When we decided to start raising Dorkings, the search was on to find some breeding stock. Chicks are hard to come by, so when I found a young rooster about 2 hours away in Columbia, we decided to get him. I sent my deposit, and she sent a pic. I immediately named him Hamlet. A month later, we drove up to get him. By the time we got home, I knew he wasn’t a Hamlet. He was sweet and would come when I called him. He would let me hold him and stroke his feathers. This was no mean “I’m going to spur you when you turn your back” kind of rooster. He was a lover. He was fancy. He WAS Ron Rico.
The girls took a while to get used to him. The old ladies would torment him. I mean chase him around the yard and coop relentlessly. The younger girls just liked that they could nip at him and finally feel superior to someone. We had a batch of meat birds close to the barn, and Ron Rico took to them. He would walk back and forth and back and forth along the fence, showing off his beautiful feathers, trying to entice someone to come close. A few would, but poor Ron Rico, like most young boys, would turn into a spaz and they would run away (this was the bunch that Agnes was in). We saved about 8 from that bunch and Ron Rico and Agnes shared the flock nicely.
By the time Agnes was gone, Ron Rico had finally come in to his own, perfected his crow (oh it was such a SAD crow to start with!), and started to look out for all the girls. Part of a roosters job, besides breeding, is to make sure his flock has food and warn of any dangers. So he would cluck and coo when he found something good to eat, or send out the alert when a hawk was overhead. Although the old ladies seemed to ignore him most of the time. When he started to take care of his breeding duties, I wasn’t quite sure if he was completing the task. You see, besides the characteristic of one extra toe, Dorkings also have short legs. Very short legs. While most chickens look like they are high-stepping when they run, Dorkings go into low rider mode and hug the ground. It was very funny to watch him chase the girls. He never seemed to be in quite the right position. But apparently I underestimated his ability. We had 2 girls go broody and 4 out of 7 hatched the first time and 4 out of 9 hatched the second time, with 3 more that didn’t develop in enough time to hatch. So that is a pretty damn good fertilization rate.
But poor Ron Rico had his problems. Mainly injuries. He had a cut on his extra toe that needed surgery twice, countless patching to his comb from the girls pecking him, and a trip to the vet for a huge gash on the back of his neck. I think he may have just cut his toe and I didn’t notice until it was swollen. I did surgery solo once, the next time I needed Fred’s help. The gash on the back of the neck was interesting. We were in the creamery finishing up butchering when Ron Rico jumped on the step and kept looking inside. I though it was odd, but went about my work. After a few minutes, he was still there, just walking back and forth. I asked Fred, “what is his problem?” With that, he turned his head so I could see the blood down his back. I freaked. I went out to find a cut from one side of his neck to the other that was perfectly straight and looked like someone used a razor. The blood had coagulated enough to stop blood loss, so we cleaned up, and got him to the vet. This is where having a sister-in-law as your vet helps. She met us at the clinic and cleaned and sutured him up. We were all amazed at how well he did. With nothing to numb him, he sat there perfectly still and let her fix him. One flinch, but nothing like you would expect from a rooster having surgery. He was like this with all of the surgeries and bandaging. It was amazing. After a couple of weeks, the scab fell off and he was as good as new. I still have no idea how it happened.
Since our goal was to breed Dorkings, and we had bought some chicks, I knew the day would come when we would need only one rooster. Orville was still too young to breed, and I thought maybe Ron Rico would be the better quality bird so he would be spared. But on the morning we were moving everyone to our new house, I found Ron Rico dead. We moved everyone to the empty brooder house overnight to make it easier to catch them. Maxie was on guard outside to keep them safe. The next morning, there he was, by himself in the corner, eyes closed, on his side. He wasn’t eaten or damaged at all. All of his feathers were perfectly in place. I have no idea why he died. Maybe a snake got in and squeezed him or he ate something he shouldn’t have. I don’t know.
It’s hard to watch the girls out on the new pasture and not wish Ron Rico was with them. I am happy the girls hatched out some of his chicks. Gwen, Roger, Olive, Dave (he’s actually a she), and Charlie all have his extra toes and fancy feathers. As a bonus, I think Dave may be from Ron Rico and Pee-Wee; she’s super tiny. So some part of Ron Rico lives on.