Before I realized I wanted to be a homesteader I knew I wanted chickens. I don’t call it an obsession. I think lifelong dream sounds better while neither overstating nor understating my desire. Once I found myself in a position to homestead, chickens became less of a pipe dream and more of an imperative. Close your eyes and imagine a homestead. I bet there are chickens scratching around.
My first season started with five chicks. In spite of the snakes, foxes, hawks and owls, all five made it through the season. Success! I decided not only to get more chicks, but also a rooster. Living where we do, it wasn’t long before someone offered us two roosters. Free.
When we went to pick them up we were told they were in their coop. “Oh, we usually let them out,” she said, avoiding eye contact. Both roosters had their spurs cut off. “Well, they sometimes fight with each other. But never with the hens. And they are pretty gentle with people.” I heard Alan groan softly. The third clue happened as we were saying our goodbyes. “Please don’t eat them.” Before I could offer my assurances, I was turned and ushered out the door.
The first few weeks were uneventful. I spent much more time than was productive gazing out at the pastoral scene. One day, however, as I was walking out to the laundry line, I heard something running behind me. As I turned to see what it was, the rooster flew up into the air until we were face to face, feathers puffed up, hideous toes curled and way too close to my face. Wet clothes landed on the ground but I made it into the house. “Maybe the rooster just isn’t feeling well,” I suggested to Alan. He laughed and said, “Maybe.”
Rowdy The Ameraucana
rowdy – (noun) 1. a cruel and brutal fellow
With each day the rooster became more aggressive. When he heard the door open he would run to meet me. I read books on how to be a chicken whisperer. I tried the permissive parenting model, offering food scraps whenever I needed to go outside. I tried the tough love model of caging him but he would draw blood when we had to reach in the cage. I took to carrying a canoe paddle when I checked the mail. I tried to be as fierce as he was, but my screams sounded, even to my ears, like a terrified child. Eventually I found something that worked.
“Aren’t you glad I didn’t let you promise not to eat him?” Alan said. I just smiled and asked for more gravy.