Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Rooster Run

Flock dynamics mean some roosters need to find new homes. Rescue organizations can help

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Recently, a Facebook friend who keeps chickens put out a call for a transport volunteer. I live midway between the pickup and delivery points, so I agreed to help. That’s how I found myself driving a rooster from Oceanside, California, to Long Beach in the cargo area of my Subaru Outback.

Boy found himself in the same position as many roosters: being one too many. He needed a new home where he would be the only rooster. Roosters are territorial, and Boy, an adolescent at 1 year old, was trying to take over the flock from King, an older rooster.

“King stopped crowing, and Boy would make sure he stayed on the perch most of the day,” says Laura Elofson of Escondido, California.

Boy did a good job of keeping the hens safe, but Elofson preferred to keep King since he was older and had been around longer.

“I thought it might be easier, since Boy was young, for him to get a flock of his own and adapt easier than if we tried King with a new flock,” she says.

Families who get chicks are told there’s a 90% chance that they are hens, says Deborah Davidson Harpur, who runs Rescue Roos in Long Beach with her daughter. That means some people are bound to end up with a rooster once in a while.

Many municipalities bar roosters or limit homes to one rooster because of the noise they make. Or, like Elofson, families may end up with competing roosters. And roosters, especially when they hit adolescence, can be jerks -- to put it politely. They may run after people, pecking them or beating at them with their wings (called flogging).

“Those are all good things when you have a free-roaming flock and they need to be protected, but not such a good thing when your small children are petrified of the bird, and especially not a good thing if humans are getting injured,” Harpur says.

Since earlier this year, Rescue Roos has placed 94 birds, mostly roosters. Placing roosters is a matchmaking game, involving promoting the birds on social media or reaching out to other rooster rescues. Giant birds and tiny birds tend to find homes quickly. Known fighters and peckers can take a little longer, Harpur says, but they are often placed with people who want good guardians for their hens.

“Usually, our adopters are families who have rural property,” Harpur says. “Most often they want either a specific breed for their hens for breeding purposes, or they want flock protection from aerial predators. The other most popular reason is that they just enjoy roosters and fell for that particular little face.”

Harpur makes sure roosters are going to friendly homes only. If you’re rehoming a bird yourself, ask interested parties if they are providing a pet home and if the people taking the bird are keeping him or will be trading him. You don’t want to run the risk that he’ll end up in a fighting situation or as someone’s meal. An internet search can help you find a rooster rescue group in your area or give you tips on placement.

To avoid having to place a rooster, get chicks that are sex-link birds, which are bred so males and females can be identified at hatch. Chicks sold as “straight run” have not been sexed.

Boy, with Harpur for now, is flirting with hens through the fence. If he stays long enough to meet a one-month quarantine, he’ll get some lady friends to keep him occupied, but Harpur says most birds are placed in less than two weeks.

At Elofson’s home, King has started crowing again, and the hens are more relaxed now that they’re free of the tension between the two roosters.

“I’m thankful for Rescue Roos for helping us find a new home for Boy,” Elofson says. “Many roosters aren’t that fortunate.”

Q&A

Why does dog

scratch a lot?

Q: My dog seems to be scratching himself a lot. Does he have dry skin? Should I add oil to his food?

A: Dogs who scratch may have fleas or allergies to pollen or other inhalants. Sometimes they have food allergies. Rather than adding oil to your dog’s food, you should take him to your veterinarian to get a definite diagnosis and effective treatment for whatever is causing the itchiness.

If it’s fleas, your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate preventive product based on your dog’s lifestyle. For instance, if your dog likes to swim or is bathed frequently, an oral preventive is a better choice than a topical.

For inhalant allergies, medications are available to help relieve itching while you and your veterinarian work together to figure out what might be causing the allergy. It could be seasonal pollens and molds, or something in your household such as dust mites or a new detergent or brand of dryer sheets.

When a food allergy is suspected, your veterinarian may recommend a feeding trial to pinpoint the problem ingredient. Usually that involves feeding a novel protein -- one your dog has never eaten before -- for a certain period. Then previous ingredients are added back in, one at a time, to see what is causing the problem.

Simply adding oil isn’t really a fix unless there’s a dietary deficiency that is accidentally addressed by the addition. If you’re feeding a complete and balanced food, you shouldn’t have to add anything to a dog’s diet unless your veterinarian has recommended supplements such as omega-3 oils and glucosamine for a condition such as arthritis, for instance.

The takeaway? “Itchy” is a symptom, not a disease, and it’s a symptom common to more than one problem. Seek your veterinarian’s advice to solve it in a way that will best help your dog. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Xylitol Poisoning

Cases Rise in Pets

-- Xylitol, a lower-calorie sugar substitute, is used to sweeten everything from chocolate and other candy to peanut butter and toothpaste. That’s great news for people, but not for pets. According to veterinary toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline, this increase in products containing xylitol has resulted in a corresponding increase in the number of xylitol-related pet poisoning cases. Between 2015 and 2020, calls regarding xylitol poisoning increased 108%. “Xylitol consumption by pets, particularly dogs, can be extremely toxic and potentially deadly. The most common effect of xylitol poisoning in dogs is a precipitous drop in blood sugar, which can lead to loss of consciousness and seizures. In high enough doses, liver failure can begin within a few hours or days,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline. If your pet ingests anything containing xylitol, get him to a veterinary hospital right away.

-- Cat lovers will enjoy the book “Let’s Talk About Cats,” by U.K. cat expert Anita Kelsey, who shares her own knowledge of and experiences with cats, as well as advice gathered from interviews with other experts on felines domestic and wild: They include Jackson Galaxy, on what it means to bond with a cat; David Teie, who has composed research-driven music for cats; and Dr. Susanne Schotz, a linguistics expert who has studied feline vocalizations and human-cat communications. In 16 chapters, she addresses such topics as feline play, scratching behavior, finding a lost cat, grief, training, nutrition, environment, touch, therapy work and old age.

-- The American hairless terrier, a small and charming dog, is an offshoot of the rat terrier. Besides hairless, he also comes in a coated variety. He loves people and is playful and alert, but beware: He can be a barker. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.