One year the Easter Bunny left chicks at my cousins Debbie and Jimmie. Those chicks were cute as could be, all yellow and fluffy, peep-peeping in a box under a warm lamp. I bet you can guess, they were not so much fun wandering around the house; even around my big yard, I sometimes had to be careful where I stepped, I sure wouldn’t want a chicken wandering around inside my house, like they were at Debbie’s and Jimmie’s.
One of those chicks turned out to be a rooster, who drove town-folks nuts with all his crowing, ’cause a rooster isn’t content with one crow in the morning, he keeps at it until he’s sure everyone is up-and-at-’em, heading out the shoot, and scratching in just the right corner of the yard. Pretty soon, my cousins’ grown-up chicks moved out to our farm.
We already had chickens, so the hens fit right in. As I said before, Mom and Dad were experts at drumming up jobs for me to do, so lots of times that meant I was picking eggs. Inside the chicken coop it was dusky all day long, and it smelled like a giant bird’s nest; the chickens all calm and bluck-blucking a low mutter like they were old women talking to themselves. Most of the time when I gathered eggs, the hen left the nest, and all I had to do was pick up the eggs and put them in the pail, but sometimes a hen got it in her head, she wanted chicks, then she stuck around and sat tight, keeping the eggs warm. When that happened, I slipped my hand under her to get the eggs, like a warm treasure hunt under a down pillow.
Every once in a while a hen would get so intent on hatching chicks, there was a battle. Me and Bonita teamed up and got on our battle gear: canvas jackets, Dad’s electrician gloves, and a long stick. Bonita slipped the stick under the hen and pried her up, creating a space underneath and distracting her a little, then I grabbed an egg out as fast as I could; the hen would almost always peck at me, but if I was lucky, she got the gloves, instead of flesh, and that didn’t hurt, it just scared me.
After we got That Rooster, a whole lot of hens decided they wanted chicks, and they got pretty determined about it. I started feeling like all that quiet muttering those hens were doing was actually plotting, and That Rooster was just strutting around like he was the General of the winning army. The hens got more and more determined to keep their eggs, while Bonita and I got creative with our counter attacks; still it was taking longer and longer to get the eggs picked. Maybe because That Rooster had so many wives, and he could see me getting more and more anxious about picking eggs, he got super cocky.
That Rooster started to take after me when I was out in the yard. I got afraid to go outside to play, and when it was Chore time, I’d walk really slow and easy out to the barn, so as not to rile up That Rooster, always keeping a look-out for him. Still, if he thought I was too near one of his hens, he took after me and start pecking at my heels. I was walking a fine line: walk really slow to get by unnoticed, or start running like all get-out so I could get away from That Rooster.
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Mom didn’t believe That Rooster was mean. “He’s a pet. He’s just trying to be friendly.” she told me. “He used to following kids around.”
“But he’s chasing me.” I argued. Arguing came natural to me; most of the time I hardly knew I was doing it. Bonita told me I should just shut up and go along, so there would be less trouble, but I never did get good at that.
“He’s probably just playing a game.” she said. “Now get outside and play.” I started to hang out on the porch a lot, so I could dash in the house when That Rooster came after me.
One day, Mom was taking a load of laundry out to hang on the line and That Rooster took after her. She dropped that laundry basket and came running in, me just hanging out on the porch, with That Rooster flapping his wings and holding to the back of her sweater.
“I think he was just playing.” I couldn’t stop laughing. Mom looked at me for a minute with her lips pressed together in a straight line like she did when she’s about to get mad, and then she busted out laughing, too.
Mom got her axe out, and That Rooster’s head was on the chopping block in no time; we had roast chicken for dinner that night. Mmm, mmm, all the sweeter, ’cause I knew the war was over. I’m not sure what the hens were muttering about that night, but things got a whole lot more peaceful in the hen-house.
There’s a lot of life lessons in that experience: Pick your battles; Collaborate to win; Mothers are wired to take care of their chicks; Don’t mess with an axe wielding Mamma… Perhaps you can help me distill a nice neat lesson out of this story.
- Chickens (justanotherdayoutwest.wordpress.com)
- Alarm Clocks and Roosters – What do they really have in common? (goodlifegaston.com)
- Silky Rooster’s Been Raptured Out (sofarfromheaven.com)
- King Richard and Little Dickie: a tale of two chickens (irunibreathe.wordpress.com)