Tuesday November 24, 2015
First let me say: Nobody wants a rooster. It sounds so sad. Being a male in most societies tends to be a positive thing. You have advantages, better pay, greater advancement, more respect in business and no glass ceiling. Life is your oyster, yours for the taking. At least that is what many of my female friends tell me. There are people who like to have a rooster in their flock but they are few out of many. This lucky guy gets to have a harem of women and in case of a predator attack, sacrifice himself. Many people love this dynamic but we have tried and they always seem to attack Mary Ann. (For the record they have never attacked me but once they give her a go they are gone.) We hope, we dream but the reality is most roosters tend to be aggressive. There’s always a chance that those new chicks that we have raised from day one are going to be boys. And it sucks because they always attack Mary Ann… supposedly. I have never been a witness.
We loved Phyllis, our Polish breed chicken, but she mysteriously died one day, which sometimes happens with chickens. So it was my good idea to order four more of her kind to join our flock. These beauties have this fantastic top crest of feathers that looks like a stunning frilly hat. It was our first time raising this breed so we had no idea of what to expect. I will tell you that it is especially hard to sex these chickens at birth so it’s a craps shoot on the resulting sex. Each week these young “girls” became more special, which we believed was the identification of their female breed. And then things changed. At first it was a usually Mohawk haircut that the “girls” developed, followed by an attempt to crow. Then a full Kellogg’s breakfast alarm but we did want to believe it. The fateful day arrived and the first suspect tried to attack Mary Ann. There was no documentation. No one heard the event but we were to believe that it had happened. One by one these “girls” all turned out to be boys and I decided that it was not a good year for me to go to Vegas.
There are a few options, not all good, to “re-home” a rooster. In our area, roosters have three options: dinner, fighting, and lastly placement in a flock of girls needing a guardian. I had raised these gentlemen from day one so the first easy option I wanted to avoid as much as possible. My first attempt was to call on my PR background to make these guys look as good as possible. I designed the most beautiful poster expressing how handsome, but not good for eating, how protective, but small and not good for fighting, but how excellent for a good breeding program these birds happened to be.
“Free to a Good Pet Home,“ the posters read. One week later the phone rang and I had placed one gentleman in a home that recently lost an old rooster and was looking for a new man to protect the flock! What luck I thought! One down and three to go! Another week passed and Mary Ann was starting to reach her breaking point with the increasing “attacks”. So I posted on Craigslist’s Farm & Garden section, the local go-to for farm and garden news but in reality you never know what type of people respond.
Day one after posting I received an email from a gentleman, let’s call him Joe, who loved the way the boys looked and was looking to start a flock of Polish chickens. “How many do you want,” I asked. “Three or four would be great.” I had hit the jackpot. Here I would be able to place these hand-reared chicks in a good home right away and not resort to sending them to someone’s dinner table. Problem solved and I agreed to personally deliver them the next day with Mary Ann and Dave in tow so we could grab a nice lunch afterwards.
The next day with roosters in back we drove up to an ominous looking gate in a remote part of the county on a not very traveled road. The gate creaked open and what I can only describe as the set to a creepy horror movie lay in front of us. A run down compound with multiple small dwellings with blacked out windows dotted the landscape. My mind flashed with images of soundless victims banging from inside the houses shouting “Save Me!” to deaf ears. I drove further; thankful I had convinced Dave and Mary Ann to join me on this “getting creepier every moment” adventure. A man on crutches waved us in as my horror movie-watching mind raced. Niceties were exchanged and he wanted to see the boys in the back of the truck. He told us about a recent successful pheasant-hunting trip and what a great time he had. He was so excited about the roosters. So beautiful he exclaimed. They will be perfect to start his new flock! Almost too many times he expressed that they would be pets and “not for Thanksgiving dinner.” He would take them! And then things get strange. He asked if we could take roosters to his coop since he could not cross the freshly dug ditch in front of it. This is the part in the movie where the man is not really disabled, throws his crutches aside, hits us on the head and rolls our bodies into the freshly dug ditch. “Sure!” I exclaimed! (I really wanted to get rid of these roosters). I crossed the ditch first with Mary Ann in tow to the coop, which looked like chickens had not lived in that thing for 20 years. I stepped inside and gasped. There on the floor lay three freshly severed poultry heads. Mary Ann entered saw the heads and gave a startled yelp. For a brief moment her eyes met mine, I searched her for guidance and time stopped. Our crutch-welding host shouted to ask if everything was OK and Mary Ann strategically placed her box of hand reared from day one roosters on top of the severed heads and replied that we were fine. Decision made and she wanted those roosters gone. I was at a moral crossroads. This is the point in the story where I wonder if God was testing me or at least where John Quinones from that “What Would You Do?” TV show emerges from behind the bushes with cameras asking me how I could allow sending my babies to their death. I know it is always a possibility that roosters become dinner but I just did not want to be confronted with it. I started to laugh uncomfortably as Mary Ann left to fill up their water bowl and Joe tried to pass off what looked like a box of fruit loops for chicken feed. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I exited the coop, thanked him for giving them a good home and Dave knew something was up. I told him to get in the damn car as the perfectly cast villain Joe shouted that he would start looking for girlfriends for the new boys as we drove out. I had only one thought on my mind: Get past that gate to freedom.
I could not stop my strange laugh during lunch at a favorite Thai restaurant in town. I think I was in shock. I half expected this man to walk through the back door with our wrung roosters shouting that lunch was served. I was in denial. Once home, I searched for answers to convince me that these roosters were not going to be dinner. And then it hit me. I raced next door to Dave and Mary Ann’s and explained my case like a young Sherlock Holmes. Those were not chicken heads in the coop! Joe had said that he had recently hunted pheasant and those three heads were pheasant not chicken! Mystery solved! Mary Ann was not convinced saying they did not look like any pheasant she had ever seen. Google images fed into my crazy theory after 30 minutes of searching for something remotely similar. She was still not convinced but it worked for me. I was not a horrible person.
And then the email arrived the next day. Joe wanted to let me know that the boys were doing great and that “as I saw” there were three chicken heads in the coop. These guys, he explained, were always fighting so they became dinner but not to worry my roosters would live a very happy life. So my question is, did this email make it more or less of a possibility that they were destined for the dinner table? I’ll never know but unlike the conclusion of the Irving novel, I won’t be asking God or anyone else to bring them back!