On a warm summer weekend we had a garage sale. Hubby Chad posted awkwardly large signs all over town that Addie Acres was having another HUGE SALE. The signs welcomed folks to bring their youngsters to the farm to see the llamas and mini-horses. Past participants knew a visit to our sale also meant a variety of animal fun would follow like petting our fat little goat Dillon who likes to hug.
Opening our doors for the sale also seemed to be an announcement that FREE animals were welcome. This time it was free ... chickens. A young couple, down on their luck, explained how they were moving in with her parents and that there was no room for the chicks in the backyard. They sweetened the deal by not only offering us the adorable chicks, but also a nice big cage, food dishes and corn grain to boot. All that FREE stuff was irresistible, especially as we all know how expensive cages can be! I said yes before the words forming in Chad’s mouth could offer the necessary wisdom on our unfolding “free animal” saga!
The chicks were still young, mostly fluff, and you couldn’t tell what breed they were yet. Unfortunately, five out of the eight chicks were Bantams and four of the five were roosters. Though they grew slightly larger in stature, they grew to terrifying proportions in machismo meanness. They hung out together like a gang of street thugs and they attacked in like manner, attempting to boss every animal in the barn regardless of the stomp risk. Their efforts to crow sounded like a Comanche war cry, only the young warrior had already fallen off his horse and been trampled. We nicknamed them the Four Horsemen, as in of the Apocalypse.
Bantams are very pretty with long tail feathers resembling autumn colors. Ours didn’t like to sleep, eat or hang with our larger flock of chickens. We would watch them strut around the yard, chasing bunnies or sleeping in defensive entrenchment under a bush. The Horsemen also didn’t care that much for us humans and, after giving former king rooster Lucifer the axe a few months before for full-talon assaults, we weren’t up to letting roosters chase us in our own backyard again!
The Horsemen were especially annoying little birds that were no bigger than Chippie, our Chihuahua. We let them know early on that we, the people, controlled the food that happened to be stored next to the axe that we kept in their full view. After some initial ‘understandings,’ the velociraptor descendants kept to themselves that first year and, although they were a pain when pecking at our ankles, we let them stay just so we could watch their antics with the other animals. The Horsemen especially liked harassing the cats and were not afraid of them. The felines on the other hand despised the irritants. Those ankle tall plagues would chase the cats, pecking at their behinds or stealing their Kibbles. The kitties sat high up on the hay bales to keep distance between them and, once in a while, you could hear the loud squawks and high pitched meows of battle between the competing cats and Horsemen.
They also annoyed the other Addie Acre inhabitants. The gang would sneak into goat Dillon and Sierra’s pen as goat grain was thought to be for Banties only. Once they were in, the goats were not allowed back inside without a fight. Our nightly routine included chasing the pests out so the goats could go to bed and perhaps get a nighttime snack. Our mini horses Lacy and Sparky were, as now, too busy foraging for food in their perceived perpetual state of starvation to notice. The llamas were aloof in regards to the Banties as their watchful eyes searched for anything on four legs resembling a coyote.
Our dogs, however, loved them. Really loved them! If a pooch got out, he went straight for one of the Bantams. Cody, our 13-year-old golden retriever, still enjoyed a good chase and the apocalyptic hoard was perfect exercise. The pursuit included the rarity of the Banties being split up as they ran in circles and ducked under barrels. Cody was in heaven! He went from one to the other, mouth open wide, tongue hanging, and occasionally with a few feathers stuck in his teeth. As much as I wouldn’t have cared, I never let him fully grab a Horseman.
However, in confession, I did allow Cody to put the fear of dog in them! If they were acting up, I opened the door and let a dog or two out to put them back in their place. After a couple of years the gang started to get beyond control, following in Lucifer’s footsteps. They attacked the children who stopped by to pet the animals and, as a result, ended up in the freezer. I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. Chad, however, cooked them up one night and served them at a family gathering, sharing that they should bring joy at least in this way. The Horsemen, even in death, fought back as the assembled commented on how they were tough and not very tasty. That didn’t surprise me at all. Addie Acres and I tried with the ‘free’ chickens, but I can honestly say we will never allow Bantam chickens to rule the farm again, unless MAYBE they’re free, cute and come with the sure to be deceptive assurances of owners simply ‘looking for a good home.’