Some good friends of ours went on vacation (lucky devils) and asked us to watch their farm animals for two weeks. They have oodles of young chickens, five roosters (or so), and many hens, along with five (?) cats and a very pretty horse. Plus they have automatic feeders set up, and hay in the stable, and in general, they've made this job as easy as they can for us. All we have to do is make sure there's still food and water, and bring the little chickens into the coop at night so the raccoons don't get 'em. They're very fast, though, so, if they weren't in a fence, I'm pretty sure they could outrace a raccoon. No point testing it, though!
The story I have to tell is about one of the roosters, named Pip. He has a bad habit of chasing kids, and if you try to swat him away, he takes it as a challenge and flies at you. The first morning we were there, the kids came over and said, "Pip is attacking us!" I have a special sore spot for about anything attacking my kids, so I grabbed a near shovel and said, "Show me where he is." And by golly if he hadn't put himself right between my car and the chicken coop, which was where we had to go. He faced off with me for a minute, and none of my shooing and hand flapping was having any effect at all. Finally, he charged at me, and I had to swing the shovel, people. I mean, that beak looked pretty sharp, and he looked quite determined in his attacking of me. So I smacked him with the shovel, moving him back several feet, and then he charged me again. We went along like this a few times, til finally I yelled at him and gave him a good shove that picked him up off the ground and into the horse pen, where we both tried to decide if we were done. I don't even mind admitting that I was really, really mad. Yelling mad. Pick up a chicken and cook him for dinner kind of mad, if I had more than a passing knowledge of how to accomplish that. What I did know was that we weren't going to be able to go through this routine every morning to get to the chicken coop. Something was going to have to give.
So I called my friends on vacation - yeah, the very first day - and explained the problem. It went along the lines of "I think I'm going to have to kill your rooster" and them saying "Go ahead." Really, it was that simple. They knew that bird was a problem, and I think they were hoping that I'd take care of it for them while they were gone. After all, I'd said many, many times, "I do believe I would cook that rooster, if he were mine." And they'd laugh or say they were saving him because he made pretty little chickens. But I'd go so far as to say they encouraged me this time. And I'm not so far removed from how we get our food that I think it's wrong to kill a chicken, as long as it's quick. Quick was exactly what I wanted, too.
So I went back over there that night, armed with a determined attitude, even though I had never actually caught a chicken myself, let alone an attacking rooster. And I looked for that fowl. Really looked. Around the house, up in the trees, by the coop, in the bushes... I finally found him, among all the other roosters, making himself very small. Seriously. I looked at that bird, and he ducked his head and made a little noise. And it wasn't a challenging noise, either. So there I was, having said I was going to kill this bird, ready to do what I had to to make it happen, and he was acting like a rabbit. Rats. Or not rats, depending on whether I felt I had to do what I had set out to do. Was I a girl of my word or not??
In the end, though, I couldn't kill him. He was acting like we had reached an understanding on whether or not I could let the chickens out of their coop in the morning and put them back in at night. I haven't had any problem since, though we may need to have another discussion or two before the weeks are up. I guess I'm a girl of my word, as long as it doesn't involve smacking something not giving me a problem. Kind of anti-climactic, but a relief at the same time. My kids were grateful that my credibility was damaged, in this case, anyway - except for my middle child, who was really looking forward to having a chicken dinner.
This is a picture of Pip taken from behind a fence, which is where he is now hiding from me. He even ducks under the stairs every time I arrive, but gets braver the longer I'm there. Silly bird still doesn't know he's mortal....
It's beginning to look a lot like....
3 hours ago