A Foul Fowl

So much for my care for our dear survivor chickens (referenced in my previous blog) . . . This past week I turned my back on our rooster and learned the hard way not to do that. The next thing I knew, I felt claws at my back that were tangled in my hair.

My Facebook update, referencing this event, led to all manner of snarky comments from “You never know what a cock-a-doodle-do” (thanks Dave), to the help from my cousin who gave me the title to this post (thanks Rhea), to Randy wondering if I’ve been eating too much at Chick-fil-A thus provoking the attack, to Maggie warning me that PETAR (People for the Ethical Treatment of Attacking Roosters) had caught wind of what happened and are now watching me.

He is a foul fowl indeed.

I admit, we don’t know much about chickens. We have to go to Google every time we have a question about what to do next. We naively let 12 of the original 15 get eaten by the local wildlife, but so far have been able to keep these last three safe. We recently visited Menards to look at paint swatches for a decorating project we’ll start next month to make this place look more “us,” and in the process, wandered into the gardening section. The helpful guy in that department listened to our dilemma and suggested that we get both chicken wire to build a pen and a set-up with low-voltage electrified wire to run around the pen that would gently zap our marauding fox should he venture too near.

We put up the chicken wire fence, creating a large area beside the barn for the chickens to wander and be safe. We never got around to installing the low-voltage wire because it didn’t take more than a couple of days for the chickens to realize that they could simply fly out of their protective area and continue to wander the yard. The three of them stay together, cawing and clucking, and, yes, cock-a-doodle dooing. Then, when they want to, they all fly back inside their penned-in area.

And apparently Mr. Rooster has decided to let us know that he is in charge here. I didn’t know that roosters crowed ALL DAY LONG. Call me stupid, but I thought they just crowed at dawn. But no, they merely START at dawn. We can tell where the three amigos are in our yard at any particular moment by listening for Mr. Rooster.

It’s funny to watch him. While most other farm animals make their noises with half-sleepy nonchalance (mooo, baaa, cawww), Mr. Rooster works hard to make his presence known. When he gets ready to cock-a-doodle-do, his neck stretches up as high as it can go, his eyes bulge out, and the piercing call comes from the very depth of his being. He is here, he is large (at least, he thinks he is), and he is in charge (ditto). The two hens will follow him in and out of the protective area. “OK lady, bring food, bring water, open and close the chicken coop door, but don’t forget who I am. Cock-a-doodle-doooo!”

Just don’t turn your back on him.

Life and Death in the Country

I have been facing the difficult reality of life and death in the country. We came to the country as city folks who have been learning the hard way about the harshness of nature.

Not that there isn’t death everywhere, but it seems more–well–in my face here. The sadness came to me the day I sat on my back porch and saw a fox attack the little group of chickens that were trusting the safety of our little back garden. The fox came out of nowhere. He must have crept along the sides of the buildings and attacked from there. The flock scattered in all directions but the fox managed to grab one. I saw him tearing across the lawn toward the high hay in the field behind us with one of the “Three Amigos” (the three matching red chickens) in his mouth. I chased him, but of course was unable to save my poor little clucky friend.

We’ve been wondering what’s been happening–we started with 15 chickens and are now down to three. Hence my sorrow. My husband says we should think “circle of life” and realize that we provided the fast food joint (a la Kentucky Fried) for the local wildlife population. Surely some little baby foxes had full tummies thanks to our provision.

I have on purpose not fallen in love with these chickens. Leave it to me to be away for a few days and then hear from my husband by phone, “Guess what I bought?” I came home to find 15 little chicks in a big box under a warm light. Various different colors and breeds and sizes. They grew. Fast. There were the big red ones, and the little ones with feathers on their feet, and the tiny white one with black trim around his feathers as if someone carefully used a black magic marker to outline him. They really have their own kind of beauty.

Once they outgrew their box, we moved them onto the back porch (it was still too cold to put them into their coop). Finally, when the weather broke, we put them outside, opening the coop door for them each day to strut down the special walkway my husband built and wander the yard. I love watching them strut about and peck the ground. I love hearing the rooster crow. I enjoyed having them wander the entire yard, staying in their little groups together, sitting under the bushes on the hot days. When they wandered too far, we chased them back, with them “cawww”-ing at us as if annoyed that we dared to chase them back to safety. Once we even had to chase them back to our yard from across the road. Yes, they crossed the road. Why? I have no idea.

Dumb chickens.

After the horrifying fox attack, we lost a couple more (including one more of the “Amigos”)–feathers in a pile beside the tall grass of the adjoining field revealed yet another attack. We have since put up chicken wire and are keeping our free-range chickens penned up to try to protect them. From certain death.

And I guess that goes for the sadness I feel every time I see some poor animal by the side of the road. From my perch shotgun on a recent lengthy trip to the Northeast, I counted ten deer by the side of the road–and that in just one stretch of highway. Poor sweet deer running and skipping and then . . . well, I don’t want to talk about it. Seriously, I can’t even watch those nature shows where one animal kills another. It’s all just too sad.

We’ll never be hunters. We’ll never be able to kill and eat (these chickens are for “pleasure” only, and maybe eggs; we could never hurt them ourselves). Not that I have a problem with those who do hunt (bless you sis and bro-in-law), but somehow I just can’t yet stomach death in the country.

I know they’re just creatures and it occurs all the time. I just don’t want to see it, hear it, feel it.

But that’s part of life, right? Hard things come. We buck up. We get through it. We rejoice with the three little chickens who are the survivors. We protect what we have. We do our best with what’s left.

Sure, there’s pain. But there’s also survival. There’s life. Real life.

And that’s what we celebrate.

Guess I better go close up the chicken coop. They’re counting on me to protect them as best I can. Even though they don’t have a clue.