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Another Day in the Country

Wild Country

© Another Day in the Country

When this column, Another Day in the Country, was first conceived, I thought of my days in Ramona as actual “country life.”

However, in California, we’ve always lived in the country, too.

During my last visit to be with my grandson during his spring break from school, I was reminded just how wild California country, even so filled with people, can be.

Rhett, the reigning rooster in my grandson’s Unusual Poultry Operation, was calling the alarm and my son-in-law went to the door, one afternoon, to see what the ruckus was about. In our front yard, way too close to the house, was a bobcat, and a good-sized bobcat at that! This was a new development.

“Unfortunately, that cat will probably be back to check out those chickens,” I said when Jana reported the sighting.

Sure enough, the day after I arrived, that bobcat showed up for another look. Once again, Richard was home alone and he heard Rhett carrying on. Once again, there was the bobcat leisurely checking out the yard, then trotting off around the house, down the hill into the brush in the old horse corral. Startling!

“That cat is as big as the neighbors’ dog.” Ron’s dog is a cur, not exactly a lap dog.

Because our family home is in rural Napa Valley, up on the side of what Californians call a mountain, we have an abundance of wildlife around us. But while rumors of bobcats and mountain lions abounded, we’d never seen one on our property. They might have been roaming around in the dark, but not in broad daylight.

When I arrived back with my kids, I was anxious to see Rhett, our alarm-calling rooster. On the first day I said, “Shall we let the chickens out to roam around?” No one was very enthusiastic, except for the chickens.

“I don’t know,” my daughter said. “We saw the bobcat just this morning.”

Meanwhile, I’m still in denial mode, refusing to think that a wild cat would get that close to the house.

I didn’t exactly beg, but I could tell they were humoring me to allow the chickens to run free for an afternoon. Dagfinnr armed himself with a tennis racket.

“What for?” I wanted to know.

It was purely symbolic.

As it turned out, I was the one who needed the racket. No sooner had the chickens been released but Rhett made a beeline for me and attacked my boots. I kicked him and he came back for more. Now what?

In all my years of chicken tending, I’d never had something like this happen before. In fact, I’d rather prided myself on my chicken whispering prowess.

Only once in 20 years of raising chicks did we have a problem with a rooster and it wasn’t with me. Rocky decided to try and intimidate my sister. In fact, the first time he tried attacking her legs he had her trapped in a chicken house, as I recall. She carried a shovel in defense, after that first attack, and eventually we gave Rocky to a neighbor.

Unfortunately, our neighbor was too close. Rocky came home one day trying to court some of our hens over to his house. Jess pulled out the “big guns” and chased him home with the riding lawnmower — THAT he understood. Finally, he was overpowered, out-gunned.

One would think that Rhett, the Rhode Island Red, would be glad to see me since I was his caretaker as a chick, even choosing him to stay with us and not become the “farm chicken” like the other chick in our flock that was supposed to be a hen. I tried several tactics to scale down his aggression toward my boots — even took them off — but he was on the attack. It’s another day in California country and I know one handsome rooster who is in time out.

Last modified May 2, 2018

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