Rooster-for-Hire

Our neighbour has a large kabir hen. They want to breed it. Someone gave them a native rooster. But the kabir hen was so big that it frightened the rooster.  So our neighbour asked to borrow our rooster. I decided to lend them one of our red native roosters. It was a reasonably large rooster. But the kabir hen intimidated it. Our neighbour asked to borrow our white rooster.

Now this white rooster is My Rooster. It’s a big mature rooster with huge spurs. I agreed to lend my white rooster. Here he is with the kabir hen.

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After several weeks nothing happened. As it turns out, the kabir hen is just too large such that it wasn’t possible for any native rooster to mate with it. What a pity! So now our neighbour will slaughter the kabir hen for a birthday on June 4.

Here are some photos of my favourite rooster.

We breed native chickens for meat. In March and April we sold a fairly good number of native chickens we’ve raised wondering about in the backyard. March and April was graduation month and fiesta in a few places. We also sold a pig for someone’s graduation party.

We keep a couple of roosters for breeding. We don’t keep roosters for cockfighting. The very first time I witnessed a cockfighting derby was last week on Pamilacan Island. They were having their village fiesta and cockfighting was one of the special events. I was able to take a couple of videos.

I personally don’t know what to feel about cockfighting. I’ve seen roosters fighting as they often do in nature. It is bloody, violent, deadly. But it takes hours. And of course, before the fight becomes deadly, the rooster is free to run away — unless they were tied up as they often are to prevent them from escaping or getting stolen.

In a cockfighting derby, because of the frighteningly sharp steel spurs attached to the roosters’ legs, the fight only takes a few seconds, sometimes a couple of minutes. Sometimes the losing rooster dies, sometimes it lives to fight again another day. At the Pamilacan Island derby, there was a veterinarian tasked to provide care for wounded or injured roosters. Perhaps for people too!

Here are the videos (below) taken on Pamilacan Island, a special cockfighting derby held especially for the fiesta. Cockfighting in the Philippines is regulated by law. Please don’t watch the videos if you find it upsetting.

The Fat Duck

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I learned about the duck fattening phase via a website dedicated to promoting awareness of foie gras production and animal welfare. My interest in the finishing stage for ducks came about because of the need to raise the best quality duck meat. This means lean, plump meat that is also tender. At 6 months, duck meat begins to become tough so the goal was to raise fat ducks suitable for consumption by the time they are only 3-4 months of age.

It was necessary to conduct several experiments to figure out exactly when our ducks reached the fastest growth spurt. I tried giving a protein-rich diet ad libitum to ducks at 10 weeks, 12 weeks and 14 weeks. This protein diet lasts for only 2 weeks. I found that our Muscovy ducks are suitable for finishing stage at no less than 12 weeks and no more than 14 weeks.

How much and how often do I feed the ducks at fattening? I visit the duck fattening pen at least 3 times a day and when the feeding tray is empty, I just fill it up. It is also necessary to provide lots of water. For fattening, I also had to make a separate pen to keep out the other older ducks. When the fattening phase is finished, the ducks are released with all the rest.

The results of the fattening phase are very good. Previously, at 4 months of age our ducks would only have a dressed weight of about 1.6kg (male) and .8 kg (female). With the fattening phase our ducks at 4 months of age have a dressed weight of 2.4kg (male) and 1.5kg (female).

To make the scheme economical, I needed to find a cheap source of protein to feed the ducks. In our village, one of the cheapest source is fish. Depending on the season, anchovies can be as cheap as 25 pesos per kilo. Ducks at fattening would need about 20%-24% protein so I simply mix the boiled anchovies with bulk food stuffs such as chopped banana stalks, seasonal windfall fruits, corn-based or wheat-based mash or pellet feeds, etc.

If the ducks get a lot of protein and grow too quickly, their wings tend to become deformed — something called angel wing syndrome. I often get this with the duck fattening phase. Sometimes the deformity sorts itself out.

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Since ducks are a natural glutton, feeding them to fatten at younger or older ages is just not economical. There is a fattening or finishing age for ducks and that is something that you must find out for yourself by experimenting. I assume not all duck breeds or flocks are the same when it comes to fattening, this is why I suggest that people who are raising ducks for meat conduct their own experiments.

Duck Ballet

Our ducks learned to dance sometime before the drought. This is behaviour so far observed only amongst a few of the younger (less than a year old) female ducks. I associated this behaviour with the drought. Third week of May it finally started raining heavily. And the ducks are still dancing. But not as often as before.

I just feel grateful that the long dry spell has finally been broken. Over the past several weeks temperatures have been reaching a rather uncomfortable 35°C – perhaps not too bad if you live in a nipa house surrounded by trees. For now, it’s 29°C at high noon and probably will be raining later in the evening.