Friday, September 26, 2008

When Roosters Attack

My colorful adventure with the chickens continues. Mike has finally agreed that, that Rhodie, the Rhode Island red rooster looks a little sun burnt, so maybe my worries about him were not ill founded (see They're Here). He suggested we put some sunblock on his skin, but I declined. There are just some things I will not do. Putting lotion on a rooster's ass is one of them. But his feathers are growing and he has one inch stubs sticking from his reddened rear end. Looking at him still gives me an ice cream headache, but I think when his feathers finally reach their true rooster-like potential, that he will be a force to be reckoned with.

After careful observation of the two roosters interacting with their rather aggressive hens, I can say that right now he is much more shy than most of the other birds. I attribute his demeanor to his humiliation in having nothing back there where glorious plumes should be fluttering, in a masculine way of course. Basically, I think he is embarrassed. But let's wait. I predict that when he has something to strut about his game will include savage attacks like Mr. D is launching at the current time.

Moving on to Mr. D. This rooster is significantly smaller than Rhodie, but has balls the size of an elephant. In the two weeks since the chickens have arrived, he has jumped at me twice, knocked baby Ella down once, lept at Wyatt and Adams chests at least twice each, and has learned to chase Luke around the pen.

It is fabulous to see him initiate his charges. I have been studying him and his strategy. He acts like nothing is going on while casually pecking and scratching the dirt like all the other chickens. Then he nonchalantly, edges closer and closer to where a human is standing, then he stops feeding and that's when the fun begins. Suddenly, he stands as tall as he possibly can on his tip-toes, fluffs up his neck feathers and shakes them, just like one of the little dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, then runs at his prey, usually hitting somewhere in the two foot high zone. His charge is more of a body smash than a beak-pecking procedure, but Mr. D. is all bravado and his assault has little possibility of bodily injury. However, to the little kids he is a terrifying creature.

Now, Wyatt and cousin Adam, both shadow me into the chicken pen like a man-eating tiger is about to tear them to shreds. I put a chair in the enclosure so I can sit while feeding corn to the flock at a leisurely pace. The boys stand behind me, one on the chair arm and one on the chair back, like two pygmy goats escaping from a mountain lion. They both have run shrieking from the pen with tears streaming down their eyes, so I guess for them their fear is justified. Our kids are usually too confident about themselves around our house; I think this experience is a great reminder that they are low on the pecking order, and that small does not necessarily mean weak.

Now, Luke, the oldest cousin, has created a kind of game with Mr. D. Game to Luke, but serious business for Mr. D. Luke has taught Mr. D. to chase him around their pen and laughs like a baby hyena when the rooster actually gets body contact with him. He's playing chicken with a chicken. OK, bad pun... but since Luke aspires to be a chicken whisperer like his Uncle Mike, he must become wise in the way of chicken behavior. Knowing exactly what you can get away with is an important part of knowing the animal. Luke likes to catch the hens and pet them just because he can. He slowly stalks them from behind then lunges when near enough to grab them around their wings. A brief and polite confinement for the hen with a little bit of petting on the head and Luke lets the bird go. Since he is the oldest he gets the responsibility of letting the chickens out in the morning and putting them in their cage at night, feeding, and collecting their eggs.

All in all the chickens are doing everything and more than what was expected. We're getting great animal husbandry training for the kids, eggs to eat, and kids to respect animals. The smile I get when I see the rooster get ready to chase a kid should not count, but it does too.

1 Comments for OSL:

Karen Scarvie said...

Here's something to submit to a magazine. But what magazine? Parent/child publication? Country living? Animal husbandry? In this day and age what a privilege to be able to have relationships to other species. Lucky kids! Wise parents!