The Rooster

There have been very few posts here of an intensely personal or "confessional" nature: this is gonna be one of the them, so if that sort of thing isn't your cup'o'tea you may want to skip right on by ...

It's awfully quiet around here this morning.

There's no crowing coming from the barnyard. The rooster is dead. Worse, he died by my hand, quite intentionally. And I did not clean and cook him, either - I pulled the little bastards head off and tossed him over the fence as a feast for the coyotes.

He wasn't a sacrifice to the gods or an offering to the wights. He was perfectly healthy, and only a bit over a year old. He was, beyond a doubt, the most striking bird in my flock - a deep yellow breast with ruffles of green and blue.

I don't consider myself a cruel person. I do my utmost to avoid even the appearance of evil. I apologize to my animals when I accidentally step on them or otherwise ruffle their feathers. I am not fond of killing: I supervise the slaughterhouse process because I want to insure that the workers are not cruel to my good beasts - not because I enjoy blood and gore. But I hereby confess to taking a perverse pleasure in the killing of this rooster.

Here's the full tale:

With our first order of meat birds last year, we received a free "rare breed" chick - it was a marketing gimmick used by the hatchery to boost sales. We could always spot the little one, too, as the rare breed chick was a much darker color than the standard "chick yellow", so we kept an eye out for it.

Our delight grew as we noticed the greenish legs on the growing bird: surely this was an Aracana - the famous "Easter Egg Chicken" which lays colored eggs! I would at long last be able to feast on Green Eggs and Ham, just like a favorite childhood book had promised.

The bird, however, was not nearly as "friendly" as the others in the flock, despite (or because of?) being spared the trip to Illinois to be turned into a fryer with the rest of the chicks it had arrived with. Many an evening I searched for it to place it in the hen house for the night: it had taken up roosting alone the in the barn, which is a Bad Thing for a young bird.

Last September we were visited by a lady who wished to buy some hens for a starter flock - she spotted the Aracana and would've bought it, with my assurance that it was in fact a hen, but it was uncatchable. A sign of things to come ...

Last October we were awakened to a rooster crowing. The little boy had grown up. And as he grew he became even more beautiful, as well as much louder. It certainly added a "farm feeling" to the place, and we were well pleased.

But his attitude took a turn for the worse. I believe that he considered Kris to be one of his hens, and nearly every time she walked through the paddocks he's stalk her and attempt to mount her - he was certainly not a speciesist!

Now, for those unaccustomed to the ways of the barnyard, a note on the lovemaking habits of the chicken may be in order here. They don't. In human terms chicken reproduction is more akin to rape than any act of love: the rooster has a set of spurs on the back of his legs, kind of an extra claw, and when he mounts the hens these spurs and literally driven into the soft feathers to hold him in place while the deed is done: and the deed itself usually takes less than five or six seconds.

Of course, being a human being, my wife has no soft feathers around her neck, and, being a chicken, the rooster couldn't reach her neck anyway! So he'd drive the spurs into her buttocks - one in each cheek. If he'd only have asked me, I could've told him that this is not the way to sexually excite a human female.

In fact, far from being sexually excited, Kris got rather angrily excited, and took to carrying the shepherds crook with her whenever she went to the barnyard, using it like a golfer uses a nine iron when the rooster would get amorous.

Worse, he began regarding me as another rooster, obviously out to steal his harem of hens! And his attacks were, if anything, more violent - he could leap about halfway up my back and try to drive those nasty little claws into my kidneys!

In May he killed my favorite hen, "Miss Delaware": breaking her neck in a particularly violent episode of chicken sex. It was at that point that his fate was sealed - we resolved to take him with the meat birds to slaughter in the second week of June.

An opportunity to rid ourselves of him presented itself near the end of May, when a family of migrants stopped by looking to buy a fresh chicken or two for a holiday weekend. Alas, they wanted hens, and not the rooster.

I've not blogged much about it, but this years first meat chicken crop was a disaster. I bought from a different hatchery, and got a group which, according to the vets at Purdue, had a family tree that looked more like a bush. This caused an immune deficiency, and allowed some very common avian diseases to roar through the flock, killing nearly all of them. So we canceled our trip to Illinois, and the rooster was spared again.

Meanwhile his behavior had gotten even worse. Kris refused to gather eggs for fear of being attacked - several more hens dropped dead under suspicious circumstances. It finally came to a head yesterday.

I was talking to a customer on my cell phone in the back yard - that's where reception is best now that I've been forced to switch to a GSM phone, and that damned rooster wouldn't stop crowing. From three feet away. I could hardly hear myself think, much less hear my customers order. And when I finally hung up, the bastard jumped me as I was heading back inside, and managed to get a spur up my ass. That did it.

I grabbed the shepherds crook, managed to corner him in the barn and snagged him by the feet. hauled him out to the back pasture, well out of sight of any other chicken. Placed one foot on his head, and pulled firmly upward. Tossed the body over the fence.

Now, in the the aftermath, I began to have some regrets. He was, after all, a rooster, and he was just doing what roosters do. I must say, however, that the hens seemed absolutely happy to be rid of him - there was a lot less running about in the barnyard to avoid a sexual assault, and a lot more scratching and pecking. Egg production was up yesterday. And I have to wonder what would've happened if he'd have attacked a visitor or customer - we do get them, even though the bulk of sales are now via home delivery. Could I have been sued for harboring a vicious chicken? Still ...

It's awfully quiet around here this morning.

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