The story I’m about to tell may make you think dif­fer­ently about me. I feel dif­fer­ently about myself.

It started this past spring. To fill out my coop I ordered six female chicks from My Pet Chicken—two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens and four Pol­ish chicks.

If you’ve never ordered chicks before, you may be sur­prised to learn that you can order a wide vari­ety of chick breeds online and have them deliv­ered right to your local post office for pickup. Aside from breed and quan­tity, you have two options in order­ing. You can order straight run chicks, which means you take your chances with sex and will prob­a­bly get a mix of male and female chicks. You can also pay a lit­tle bit extra and order sexed chicks, so that you get females.

Any­way, I digress, but this is impor­tant back­ground, as you’ll see.

The chicks arrived and thrived. It wasn’t long, how­ever, before I began to sus­pect that one of the chicks was never going to grow up to be an egg-laying hen. That was an unplanned rooster.

littleman3 sm

Lit­tle Man

Roost­erly behav­ior begins quite early. Male chicks no big­ger than a grape­fruit will begin chal­leng­ing other chicks with shoves and chest thumps. By the time they reach the size of a small cab­bage, they are trum­pet­ing their mag­nif­i­cence to the world, begin­ning with hoarse, stran­gled sound­ing vocal­iza­tions. Their gen­eral atti­tude of arro­gance and enti­tle­ment grows until they begin try­ing to fig­ure out the whole barn­yard sex thing.

I gen­er­ally wait to see how chick­ens look and act before nam­ing them because I think the name should describe the chicken. So, for exam­ple, my pretty, round white Wyan­dotte is named Pearl. The creamy, caramel and choco­late Pol­ish hen is named Twix. (You know, the candy bar?) The two Appen­zeller Spitzhaubens seem to be teth­ered together as they cruise around the yard. They are Thelma and Louise.

And the rooster? Well, I named him Lit­tle Man because he reminds me of some diminu­tive men I have known who over-compensate for what they lack in stature with out­sized attitudes.

When it comes to roost­ers, I like to think I have an open mind. I’ll give a rooster a chance to prove him­self and pull his weight around the coop. My hus­band, on the other hand, has decided that all roost­ers are lit­tle sadists just wait­ing to rape, pil­lage and even­tu­ally come after me with their spurs when I am not look­ing. He began talk­ing about the final solution.

Give it some time,” I told him. T. Boone Chick­ens and Johnny Cash were were roost­ers and two of the finest chick­ens I have ever met—not overly rough with the hens and stand­ing tall and alert to the sky while the hens were head-down peck­ing and scratch­ing on walkabout.

On the other hand, Ricky Ricardo was a par­tic­u­larly wicked rooster. Good rid­dance to that bad boy.

What is it about nasty roost­ers that they tend to pick on one hen, in par­tic­u­lar? Ricky Ricardo had it out for Tina Turner and Lit­tle Man hated Dorothy with a passion.

Poor Dorothy could never rest and could hardly eat. Lit­tle Man was always chas­ing her, mount­ing her, peck­ing at her and gen­er­ally mak­ing her life mis­er­able. She had lost a con­sid­er­able num­ber of feath­ers from his attacks. She had become ner­vous and twitchy.

Dorothy 3sm

Dorothy

I felt so sad for Dorothy. She is not a par­tic­u­larly pretty hen. She has a kind of undis­tin­guished brown and white coat and the kind of facial feath­ers that resem­ble a fake Hal­loween beard. But Dorothy has spunk, I tell you. She is always the first hen to see when I am walk­ing toward the coop with left­over pizza in my hands. Dorothy lives for pizza. She is also the hen who would most like to see the world. Chick­ens never stray far from their coop when on walk­a­bout, but Dorothy always walks up the hilly dri­ve­way as far as she dares to go. I often imag­ine she is think­ing, “I won­der what’s over that moun­tain. I will go there some­day and see for myself!”

Sadly, I even­tu­ally came around to Harry’s way of think­ing. Lit­tle Man had no place in our coop.

Now, get­ting rid of a rooster is a prob­lem. You can’t hope they’ll run away from home because they never leave the yard. And you can’t give away a rooster. I have seen many ads on Craig’s List for free roost­ers and no one seems to be tak­ing those ads down. Peo­ple will go to some lengths to re-home a rooster. I once saw a huge road­side sign that said “FREE ROOSTER!” (Aside: I shared the photo on Twit­ter and one quick-witted fol­lower fired back, “Who is Rooster and why is he incarcerated?”)

I decided to con­sult with my very expe­ri­enced and skilled chicken-keeping neigh­bor V. V is a no non­sense per­son. She is not overly sen­ti­men­tal about what needs to be done with bad roost­ers and has become skilled at the task. If I needed to get rid of Lit­tle Man, I could do it myself or she would help. She described to me the method she researched and found most effective—a broom han­dle over the back of the neck and a quick snatch of the head backward.

I did what I nor­mally do in these types of uncom­fort­able sit­u­a­tions. I pro­cras­ti­nated. I kept think­ing that the sit­u­a­tion would resolve itself. Maybe one of the peo­ple I had asked would mirac­u­lously decide to take Lit­tle Man into their coop. Maybe Lit­tle Man would get reli­gion and become a kinder, gen­tler Lit­tle Man. Maybe the Cir­cle of Life would claim him early through dis­ease, injury or stalk­ing predator.

This did not prove to be an effec­tive strat­egy. Day after day Lit­tle Man con­tin­ued to tor­ment Dorothy.

Finally, one after­noon Lit­tle Man pushed Dorothy—and me—just a lit­tle too far. I decided that was his final day.

I took the first step. I went into the house and had a glass of wine. Liq­uid courage.

I took some deep breaths. I put on my Lit­tle Man killing gloves and marched out into the yard with my broom. I could almost hear dooms­day music play­ing in my head. I cor­nered that lit­tle tyrant in the coop. He was vocal­iz­ing and fight­ing like, well, I was try­ing to kill him.

I wasted no time. I took mean Lit­tle Man out­side. “Okay, you. I’ve had enough of you!” I flat­tened nasty Lit­tle Man on the ground. “You do NOT, repeat do NOT mess with my hens.” (I was really work­ing up a head of steam now.) I put the broom han­dle over hor­rid Lit­tle Man’s head. “This will teach you a les­son!” I yanked his despi­ca­ble Lit­tle Man head back with a force­ful jerk. He went com­pletely limp.

That’s it,” I thought look­ing down at my gloved hands. “I have killed with my own hands. Premeditated.”

I put down the broom, with Lit­tle Man at my feet. I stood up to med­i­tate on what my fury had wrought…and Lit­tle Man jumped up and raced into the woods! He wasn’t dead!

Now I not only had a mean rooster, I had a mad mean rooster.

Time to call in the Spe­cial Forces. I called my neigh­bor V. Very calmly she offered to help.

But I don’t believe in wast­ing per­fectly good chick­ens. I can bring him home for dinner.”

She didn’t mean as a guest.

She was here within five min­utes. I explained the ridicu­lous results of how I had tried to do the deed.

That sounds like the first time I butchered a turkey in my basement.”

(Note to self: Do not mess with V.)

By this time Lit­tle Man had made it back to his tor­ture Dorothy location.

V headed toward the coop. I noticed she wasn’t wear­ing gloves, so I offered mine. She took them, but I got the feel­ing that she was humor­ing me.

In no time flat V had snatched up that rooster, held him by his feet, slapped him on the ground, put the broom over his neck and sent him to rooster heaven (or hell). The end.

To rein­force her point about waste, I noticed that V had brought her own garbage bag to put Lit­tle Man in. Really, she could have just car­ried him home by his feet. But I sup­pose the spec­ta­cle of her walk­ing down the road swing­ing a dead rooster by the feet was too much even for V.

So there it is. The story of how I tried to kill Lit­tle Man and failed—and then called in a trained pro­fes­sional for the job.

It’s not how I saw myself behav­ing when I began keep­ing pet chick­ens sev­eral years ago. I am still sen­ti­men­tal about them. I give them spe­cial treats to keep them happy and extra spe­cial treats on hol­i­days. I give them names and mourn when a good hen passes. We bury hens that get sick and die.  I have been known to cry over a chicken.

But now I know when to say “enough is enough.” I know when to pro­tect the good chick­ens from a bad chicken. And now I know how to do it.

You can fol­low Bum­ble­bee and get updates, includ­ing new posts, on Face­book: https://www.facebook.com/BumblebeeLife

 

 

Robin
Keep Reading

Liv­ing here in a fairly rural part of Mary­land, I see things that the aver­age sub­ur­ban­ite wouldn’t encounter in a year liv­ing in a san­i­tized and man­i­cured neighborhood.

I can sit in my favorite chair and watch red foxes play fight in the back field. In spring, the tulip trees look like Christ­mas trees with twin­kling fire­flies in the night. I have stared in awe to see an eagle fly not 20 feet over where I was walk­ing my lit­tle dogs. I was tick­led when blue­birds col­o­nized my hugely expen­sive and unused pur­ple mar­tin gourds. And one mem­o­rable day I watched on as turkeys for­ni­cated on my front lawn.

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Live baby bun­nies in a nest

On the other hand, I have had to boldly inter­vene when Tina Turner, a beau­ti­ful Pol­ish chicken, was chased down by a hawk who wasn’t at all impressed with my wind­mill arms and lunatic shriek­ing. I have stum­bled upon dead moles, dead snakes, dead wood­chucks and dead baby bun­nies, only to return a short time later to haul them off to the woods with a shovel to find that they had dis­ap­peared. And one time dur­ing an early morn­ing run, my hus­band encoun­tered a still­born deer in the mid­dle of our driveway.

Turkey Sex dm

Turkey sex

At 10 in the morn­ing this past Hal­loween Day a bloody-footed rac­coon walked across our front porch just between the door sill and the mat, leav­ing a pool of blood to one side and drip­ping blood down the side­walk before ambling across the lawn and into the woods.

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Bloody rac­coon foot­prints by my front door

You don’t see that every day in the burbs.

Recently I was out for my run when I slammed into a force field of stench. It was just up the dri­ve­way from the house where an omi­nous band of silent black vul­tures had con­gre­gated. The odor was so over­pow­er­ing I was forced to sprint past hold­ing my nose and mouth breath­ing. My eyes were water­ing like a spigot. The smell attached itself to my clothes and fol­lowed me up the road.

No small corpse could be caus­ing such an impres­sive stink. Surely it was some­thing quite large. Maybe an ele­phant. Or a brontosaurus.

Maybe some ani­mal had taken the next step on the Cir­cle of Life ride.

Then my mind raced. What if it wasn’t a dead ani­mal? What if it was really human remains out there in the woods near my dri­ve­way? What should I do?  Should I investigate?

But maybe some­one had dumped a dead and putre­fy­ing body there and I would stum­ble across it, acci­den­tally plant­ing my DNA on the corpse and when I called the county sher­iff they would come out to inves­ti­gate and con­clude that I blud­geoned and dumped the body of a blog­ger who had writ­ten a mean review about my book and they would take me off to prison and I would be all like Orange is the New Black, let myself go and have to get a gangsta nick­name like Ugly Stretch and have an inter­est­ing but diverse new group of friends and never put up another jar of jam, although maybe I could get a job in the prison kitchen if I was really nice to the ter­ri­fy­ing Russ­ian lady in charge, but really they would prob­a­bly make me work in the elec­tri­cal shop as part of my reha­bil­i­ta­tion but instead I would get elec­tro­cuted and die young because I’m not good at fix­ing things.

My hus­band could totally deal with prison bet­ter than me.

But he wasn’t home to go look instead of me, so I finally worked up my courage to inves­ti­gate. I put on my big rub­ber boots and gloves and tied a pretty scarf around my face bandito-style. Might as well go out in style, right?

I shoed away the black vul­tures (gosh, they’re scary) and care­fully tip­toed into the woods so I wouldn’t dis­turb any evi­dence. A cou­ple of feet past the tree line I spied the enor­mous, bloated dead deer that was caus­ing the stink.

I’m sorry, Bambi, but thank you, Jesus! I am not going to prison! I’m free! I went home to cel­e­brate my free­dom with a plate of cookies.

Boy howdy. That stench had stay­ing power. It took four days for nature’s cleanup crew to fin­ish their pic­nic and for the smell to dis­perse. In the mean­time the dri­ve­way to our home looked like a more Mafioso ver­sion of The Birds.

Since I’m not going to prison after all I’m enjoy­ing the fresh air of free­dom. It feels won­der­ful not to be behind bars, to savor the quiet and shower all by myself.

Ah, rural liv­ing! I think I would be bored liv­ing in the suburbs.

 

Robin
Keep Reading

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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