Another Day in the Country
Becoming a farm chicken
© Another Day in the Country
After my grandson discovered, and I affirmed, that we indeed had two roosters in our little flock of six extra-ordinary chicks, in California he asked, “What do we do now, Baba?”
“We wait and see if they can get along,” I answered.
It didn’t take long to see that two cocks in a flock did not portend a peaceful outcome — not that I didn’t know this from experience. I just kept hoping for my grandson’s sake that these two roosters, raised so lovingly, would manage a truce.
Our first clue of a building competitiveness came when they were on the back deck looking in the French doors. The roosters, both mesmerized by those doors for some reason, were strutting back and forth, raising their hackles, posturing, and peering into the glass.
They were seeing their reflections.
This intense interest went on until the sun changed its angle. The first couple of days after their discovery, they went on about their chicken business, digging in the leaves collected under the bushes, exploring the acreage as happy campers.
And then something shifted.
One morning a cockfight erupted outside my bedroom window. Black Astrolop wings beat the air in defiance, as our magnificent T. Rhett, the Rhode Island Red, flew at Manny Penny.
The hens were the ones that first caught my attention. They went running past my window, heads down, heading for the backyard and away from the conflict.
“Oh, dear,” I muttered under my breath. “The battle for dominance has begun.”
Off and on, skirmishes occurred throughout the morning, then relative peace.
Then I heard Dagfinnr calling, “Baba, come quick. We’ve got to separate these guys.”
I came around the side of the house and found two roosters in the ivy dueling it out. I grabbed Rhett, flapping wings and all, and carried him over to the chicken run and pushed him inside.
“There,” I said triumphantly, “Time out!”
My daughter went into high gear, checking out resettlement options. We could put up a flier at the feed store.
“We always get takers,” the managers said, “even for roosters.”
“I can take it to my parents’ farm,” said a young chap who worked at the spa with Jana, “but you know what that means. He probably will end up as dinner.”
Meanwhile, back at the home for extraordinary chickens, we thought there was a truce, but Penny was not a quitter. His face was a bloody mess by sundown because he kept trying to get through the chicken wire at Rhett, who was all caged up.
When he couldn’t get at Rhett he turned his fury onto the tiniest member of the flock, Amelia, our little Bantam who’s always been Rhett’s buddy.
“Let’s try it the other way around tomorrow with Penny in the cage and Rhett outside free with the girls,” suggested my grandson, “and see what happens.”
It turned out to be a much more satisfactory arrangement. Penny was caged, albeit complaining, and Rhett was free to lead the girls around the grounds, steering clear of the chicken house until it got dark. He seemed to be doing a good job of watching the flock. Peace reigned.
That night there was a family conference discussing which rooster would stay and which would go. Rhett was bigger and potentially more trouble. Penny had always been Dagfinnr’s favorite chick. Finally, the decision was made.
“Rhett seems to be the best with the girls,” my grandson said. “He keeps the peace, so I guess Penny should go.
“She always was feisty,” he says, managing a grin.
The whole three weeks that I was in California, we were on high alert, watching for the first egg to be laid. It was time!
Every day the hay in the nest box was checked and fluffed up. We had a fake egg in place so the hens would get the right idea; but nothing happened.
“Wouldn’t it be fun for the first egg to appear while I’m here,” I thought; but it was not to be.
I left on Saturday, the day that Penny met her/his destiny to become a farm chicken. As I flew back to Kansas, Manny Penny the beautiful, irridescent, black Astrolop rode in a cage to Sacramento. We both had a smooth ride.
And then, it was Sunday, just another day in the country. The phone rang late afternoon. I thought it was probably my daughter calling to chat about my first day back home, but it was my grandson, the extraordinary chicken farmer, instead.
“Baba, guess what?,” he said, “I got the first egg today!”
I’d missed the big event by a mere 24 hours!