A Volunteer Rooster and a Missed Opportunity

For weeks I have been lamenting that the lucky chickens of my flock – the ones that have an incredible, new, well appointed coop – have refused to venture inside in any way on their own. Ladies and gentlemen, I have said to this group (among them, unfortunately, are two roosters and one silkie whose gender is questionable).  Ladies and gentlemen, I said to them when it poured a few days ago: I know it took a long time, I know you were stuck underneath the coop for weeks when it was not yet ready, I appreciate your patience. But you are welcome to go in now!

This crew – the silkies, black copper marans, d’uccles and mixes — prefers the great outdoors. Even in the rain, even at night. At least they no longer huddle right next to the fence where a sneaky raccoon could bite another one’s head half off. Instead they gather about dead center in the run, looking like they drew straws to see who would get the safer, warmer middle and who would have to be on the outside edge of the huddle (perhaps that white one on the right is kind of a loner anyway?). Tonight the moon is rising and the stars are out and once again, together they sleep en masse, not under the coop, not in the coop, but instead, camping!

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Apparently I have the stargazing sort of chickens. It’s summertime. It’s warm. It’s all good. I’ll let it go. For now.

For the record, this other set of chickens, the ones in the old coop, and all chickens I’ve had for seven years, go in their coop at night, stand on their roosting poles, and stay there till morning. Whether (and how) they actually sleep I cannot say, and one could debate whether or not they need their beauty sleep. These hens do not look like they are sleeping but maybe they were disturbed by someone who came along with a flash camera…

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Old Gray, standing behind, has clearly lost her position of dominance.

The only time we have had chickens in the new coop – night or day — is when we cornered them, grabbed them and put them in there. So imagine my surprise when I walked toward them (and it’s a dry day, no less) and saw a volunteer standing inside. I was so excited to see this, I ran up to take a picture.

This is my first picture, before I got up close. Look! Look! A chicken in the coop!

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I was so excited to see this chicken in the coop, so hopeful that the other chickens would take note of the example and come in as well, so fixated on getting good pictures, that I failed to see, failed to hear (even when he crowed! even when I tried to capture that crow on a video!) that this is a rooster!

Utterly failed to register!

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Yes, this is a rooster. He walked around the inside, slowly, as if he were checking it out to give a report to the others. He walked around on the wire flooring, did not seem bothered by it. He looked for food to eat (hey, maybe I should put food in there!). He climbed the very cool ladder to the roosting pole.

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He hopped up on the roosting pole and I got a picture from the outside.

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This is a rooster! How did I miss that?! This is one of the impossible-to catch d’uccle roosters that has to go away anyway, has to be (as the brahma roosters were) “relocated” to some remote place where nature can and will take its course.

I missed my chance! I had him in a small, confined space (still clean and not disgusting to enter). I could have rid myself of one more crower. (They don’t do themselves any favors starting in with the crowing at 530 in the morning!)

But no. This rooster’s bravery eclipsed all other thoughts I might have had. He came into the coop first, came in voluntarily, did the grand tour and finally posed his silly self in the frame of the egg door before hopping out.

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His bravery saved him (for today anyway)! We’ll see what tomorrow brings…

The Happy Wanderer, a.k.a. The Prodigal Rooster

None the worse for wear, one of the roosters showed up this morning, having found his way through the woods from the bottom of the hill, drawn perhaps by the incessant crowing of the not-yet-relocated little d’uccle roosters that clearly have a Napoleon complex. I surprise myself with the thought that perhaps this chicken has more than a pea brain.

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Ha! he says. Thought you fooled me!

I’d been alternately imagining him and his buddies enjoying a safe haven or having met a quick demise. Their haven would be filled with worms, beetles and other forms of chicken protein, reasonably sheltered and dry, and they would take turns on lookout for enemies. Your turn, Jack, I’m hungry.

Only one turning up raises questions. Dissention in the ranks? Full on attack with one survivor? Out for a morning stroll, got distracted by a buzzing bee and randomly wound up back home? Vague deja vu recollection of having been carried to this location. Oh look, a path! I wonder where it goes…

This big boy can’t tell his story, but he has one. So do his buddies, but theirs remain a mystery for now. We each have our own story. Sure, they are mixed up with other people’s (and sometimes chickens!), turned upside down at times by circumstances beyond our control, filled with surprises and challenges (good or not). Our own chapters don’t usually turn out the way we think they will, but the next chapter always builds on the last. And no one can take our story away. Say it like the sea gulls in Finding Nemo: Mine! Mine! Mine! If you forget how adorable they are, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4BNbHBcnDI)

The other day I was reminded of Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain. I appreciate this movie, and watched it start to finish again last night.  I appreciate the window it gives into the ugly, bloody, complex, unfair story of that conflict, showing teenage boys who don’t make it through the battle, the old woman killing her beauty of a goat in order to give Inman food, a young widow depending on her hog to get her through the winter, and love unable to write its full story because arrogant, powerful people play their games with no regard for human and societal cost.

The book by Charles Frazier that the movie is based on, by the way, won a National Book Award and is exceedingly well written. His writing is so on point with the culture, geography, flora, fauna and language of the time, and paints exceptional images of the heart-wrenching trek Inman took near the end of the Civil War to get back to Ada. Even just contrasting the movie scene of the widow, her baby and the hungry Union soldiers with its corresponding chapter, “bride bed full of blood,” would make for a highly worthwhile evening. How much we take for granted. How easy we have it.

The stories of individuals, no matter what era or location, brings me back to this prodigal rooster. I’m stuck now again though. If I leave him outside the coop, he will scratch in my nicely spread mulch to find his worms, make a mess of things, and perhaps invite the predators to come closer and put the other chickens in harm’s way. If I keep him, I’m back where I was before: What To Do!

This whole chicken enterprise is easier when you don’t have to make tough decisions and can just happily watch a silkie explore her new coop, starting in the brooding box we put her in for kicks last night. Coco, who has her own tales of woe, couldn’t quite reach her.

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I then closed the brooding box door and watched that chick start with a look of Huh! Now what do you want me to do? and then make her way outside.

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I imagine that later, after she made her way out that coop through the egg-shaped door, while she huddled on the ground with her friends late last night, she let them talk a bit. She waited while the others compared notes on their stylish hairdos and told of the shiny, fancy bugs they had caught.

Then she told her own story: Hey, I gotta tell y’all. I’d just chomped down on a big fat greenish beetle and all of a sudden I was grabbed from behind and put in this strange place with fine wood shavings underneath — not like this rough chunky mulch we scratch around in all day. A flat-nosed black thing with big eyes and no hairdo at all to speak of — she really needs help, that one — looked up at me and terrified me, but I didn’t let on. I’m cool…