Having been spoiled to the rich taste of homegrown chicken eggs, I didn’t want to invest the time needed for baby chicks to start laying. A friend told me about an auction in Barnesville. Being my first auction ever, I was thrilled to be the high bidder on eight 4-month old white rocks. They were huge, healthy, white chickens that appeared would start laying in the next couple of months, if not weeks.
By the light of day, I realized that these chickens were nothing more than commercial chicken house chickens. That was okay with me as long as they provided eggs. That first night, I noticed they didn’t attempt to roost; they just sat on the ground. I then noticed that they didn’t scratch at the soil. I attributed that to being in a chicken house all their life. But they could eat! I would fill the feeder and four hours later it would be empty. And they didn’t just drink water; they funneled it.
A friend offered to give me a rooster. I eagerly accepted because I thought an experienced free-range rooster could teach the ladies how to scratch, how to roost, and make them more contented in general. Didn’t happen. The rooster wouldn’t have anything to do with them. My suspicions escalated the day I bought three grown Rhode Island Red hens and threw them in the pen. Bam! Bam! Bam! The rooster was delighted to see them and was strutting his stuff.
I decided to seek the help of a chicken expert. He said he had been in the chicken business for 53 years. I told the crusty old man my story. He said, “Lady, you ain’t never gonna get an egg from them chickens. What you have is a capon!” Confused, I asked, “What’s a capon?” He replied, “A capon is a castrated rooster.” He went on to explain caponization and the effect it has on the chicken. The high steroid content of their food while developing, creates retardation (among other things.)
After that education, I had a dilemma. What do you do with castrated roosters? I listed them on Craig’s List for free but didn’t get any takers. I decided we had to eat them. It has probably been fifty years since I last witnessed a chicken killing but figured, “How hard could it be?” My grandson, 10 years old at that time, said he wanted to help. I was intensely proud that I could give him this unique experience.
So, the answer to the riddle “When is a rooster not a rooster?” is “When it is a capon.”