Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Neighbors

My history with roosters has been, well... violent. First there was "Chip," King of the Coop when we moved into our first house. He had attitude, and the looks to back it up. He had shiny gold, deep blue-green, and red feathers. He had spurs 3 inches long. "Chip" was named by the original owner. When I first met him, she picked him up and cuddled him while she wandered around the yard talking to me. Just 6 months later, Chip would be dead: shot in the head. Several weeks after we took over the chicken coop, Chip had started to get aggressive. When he lunged at our friend Bruce, we dismissed it because Bruce was teasing him. (Bruce teases everybody.) He came at me one day in the coop while I was filling waterers and food bins. I had no idea what he was doing chasing after me like that. Later, Chris told me he was probably trying to spur me. Sure enough, shortly after that he nailed Chris in the leg. After several weeks of sneaking in and out of the coop, we were tired of living in fear. And those spurs were long! He may have been beautiful, but he was dangerous.

The next season, I planned on starting over with new birds and then maintaining my own flock. That meant we needed another rooster. So we tried raising a happy rooster. It was fine for the first 10 months. Eventually, we had the same results. Shot to the head. And you are likely cringing and asking, "Why all the bloodshed? Can't we all just get along?!" 

Listen, have you ever been stalked and attacked by a chicken!? It scars you, people! That's why when I started sharing this yard here with a new rooster, I was leery. Wary. Calculating my every move. If the rooster was out front, I would take the back route. If I was carrying a shovel, I would put it between myself and the rooster. As soon as I was in view, this rooster would perk up and start moving in my direction. If I turned and walked in the opposite direction, it started trotting after me! All during my first day out in the garden, the rooster marched up and down the fence, making little demanding chicken noises. The entire time, I was anticipating him jumping over the fence and charging me. That evening I was inside making dinner, when I happened to notice the neighbor kid walking out to the coop with the rooster galloping behind him. I missed what happened behind the tree, but the next thing I saw was this 11 year-old kid picking up the monster rooster and hurling him 15 feet away. I stopped in my tracks and blinked. 

I spent a couple more days with the shovel between myself and the rooster, until I finally realized that this rooster follows people for food. Eleven year-olds pick him up and throw him, two-and-a-half inch spurs and all. I decided that I could probably survive an encounter.

Some of my other perceptions have been wrong too. Yesterday, Chris and I went outside when we saw the landlord pull up to the garden with a roto-tiller on the back of the truck. As we walked out to meet him I offered to help him get the tiller off the truck. He said, "I turned and saw you coming and thought, 'Wha...A gift from God." We had a chance to finally talk to the guy. He was hilarious! We laughed for a good 15 to 20 minutes before the black flies forced us back in. When I first moved in here I didn't get the feeling that the landlords knew much about the natural world. Oh, how I was wrong. Most of our talk was about all of the crazy things that animals do. After our conversation, Chris said to me, "I think he's read Guns, Germs, and Steel" because of the things he was saying about diseases evolving and passing between humans and animals. Not everybody has read that book. (I have not finished it.) It was uplifting, in this suburban labyrinth of lawns and pavement, to meet someone who is entertained and fascinated by the natural world.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I to despise rosters! Worthless after mating! :) Hope you can create some part of a natural world in the city to make you sane. We are moved to the mtns and in search of our perfect house so I can start my hen house, etc. Enjoy summer!