So much on a farm we are exposed to negative activity. In fact, that’s everywhere we go. Our small farm is no exception. Here we have 15 chickens with 14 hens and one rooster. Our rooster fancies himself a very special individual with his funky tuft of feathers instead of a cone and his beautiful black, white, and blue feathering. He is a rare Appenzeller Spitzhauben, the national bird of Switzerland. We have named him Fritz for his background.
The Appenzeller Spitzhauben has been called “friendly and engaging.” They are truly beautiful birds and are excellent free rangers. It is famed for its forward-facing crest and feathered cone, rather than the traditional cone.
The Spitzhauben is very well adapted to cold temperatures being native to the Alps. They are excellent climbers and can fly at low levels, making them difficult to catch for predators. The breed was established in the 1400s and has been known to stay in trees in the winter in its native Switzerland.
The Spitzhauben has been known to be a bit nervous, but will settle down with some handling. Our supplier for the breed here in Missouri is Cackle Hatchery. Located near Springfield, Missouri, Cackle Hatchery has been in business 80 years and ships all over the United States.
We obtained Fritz and two other Appenzeller Spitzhauben roosters in a purchase of 16 chicks. As new farmers, we had no real idea of what would happen. My personal career background involved years in classroom instruction, both in education and on the corporate level. I was used to disciplining students and thought I would try this on my roosters.
There was Elvis, with his black tuft reminding us of the young Elvis Presley, and the Sarge. Soon, the roosters began fighting one another. Some had told us to isolate the aggressive roosters until they calmed down. One after another, they spent time in one of the rabbit cages we had.
One after another, the roosters stayed in isolation about a week apiece. Regrettably, two of them were killed by the eventual victor, Fritz. Fritz was now the undisputed king of Hemme Farms. Yet, despite our efforts at conventional taming methods, his aggression didn’t stop. We just fed the chickens and gathered the eggs.
Last May, our grandson came to visit. One day while free ranging, Fritz decided he was too big for his britches and began to chase. He chased our grandson, attempting to spur him. The chase led to our front porch where I subdued the aggressor. I took him back to the coop, uncertain as to what to do. The next day, “Chicken Patrol” was born.
My wife had bought a water pistol for our grandson to play with. I told him that he needed to get the rooster back for his aggressive behavior. Colin filled his water gun and was ready for action. Along with his grandma, the hunt began. Soon, I heard a loud crowing and a loud snickering laugh. The rooster began running for his life and soon was back in the coop. From behind the ramp to the roost, he let out his loudest crow, as if to say you can’t stop me!
Colin was more determined to get him. Whoosh, another blast hit Fritz. The grandparents laughed so hard they cried. A week later, the rooster hurt his foot and now limps. Yet, despite his disability, he has become a comedian. He is the king of drama and constantly crows like a kid wanting attention when company comes over.
We keep the water pistol near the pen. When we hear an obnoxious crowing, out comes the water! Fritz may fly up to 3 feet in the air when squirted. “Stop, duck and roll!” Needless to say, his behavior has improved drastically but the laughs have been endless.Tom Hemme and his wife work to raise crops and animals on Hemme Farm in Missouri. Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Tom taught agricultural history and Native American heritage for many years. Follow Tom on his website, Shagadillies.com.
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