Monday, December 20th, 2010
I don’t know what it is about roosters, but they seem to fall into the same general category as goats: they’re always wandering around town on their own, chronically being picked up by the authorities, and anyone with any modicum of sense knows what troublemakers they are and heads off at the pass the “couldn’t you just take this one more?” requests. Not to point fingers or anything, but those with large rooster (or goat) populations have either taken an extraordinarily long time to catch a clue, or fall under the general category of “sucker”.
Naturally, when the Humane Society recently asked if I wouldn’t please take in “Big Red”, a handsome and, by all reports, highly social and friendly rooster who had been picked up in downtown Gaithersburg, I, with all these years of farming experience under my belt, firmly said no. No. Definitely not. So very sorry, can’t do it.
That Big Red has a new name (Ramón) and that he just happened to come with a buddy (Baudelaire, a feather-footed fop of a bird who hitched a ride since there seemed to be room in my car) doesn’t, alas, conceal the fact that ultimately the answer turned to, um, “yes”. Yes, yes, Ramón now lives at Star Gazing Farm. He not only lives here, but he has managed to convince the powers that be (that would be, in most cases, me) that he ought to be living inside. Inside the house, that is. I won’t even get into the details of our negotiations, because not only do I apparently always commit the most avoidable foible of a farmer (what happened to “Just Say No”), I somehow always get left carrying the poop pan.
I won’t swear to the fact that Ramón may have Latin blood, but he definitely displays signs of a characteristic romanticism. He sings, he coos, he talks incessantly; he dances around in intricate steps with colorful feathers displayed; and he stares longingly into your eyes and asks to be held oh-so-tightly against your chest. Ramón goes outside during the day (this is my one concession to sanity), but he moons around on the ledge right outside my office window, tapping on the window with his beak, occasionally hurling his body against the plate glass window (anyone know any glaziers’
numbers I can carry in my back pocket, just in case?). Imagine getting spurned like that every day – it must be hell on his ego. But like any persistent male, he maintains an admirable determination to woo and conquer.
Constant cleaning notwithstanding, I’m not sorry I agreed to bring him here, as he is a very amiable sort. But there is one problem: he likes to bite me. I feared at first, honestly, that he was going to be an aggressive bird, a problem bird, a rooster not safe to have around children visitors.
What I soon recognized, however, was that his behavior was not territorial but, instead, amorous. That these two things should resemble each other is *not* a question I wish to touch on at the moment, but I will elaborate with regard to birds: when roosters mate, they grab the back of the neck of the hen with their beak. You can easily know the favorite female in any group by the number of her back neck feathers that are missing. Kind of a chicken hickey.
This is where experience is so valuable. You see, years ago, my very first and favorite rooster ever, Kramer, tried to make love to everyone’s feet.
At the time I had no hens, so I suppose I could accept, if not completely understand, the rather odd transference. With an entire bevy of lovely hens just outside, Ramón’s obvious preference for feet has me a tad worried.
Nevertheless, until we can devise a migration plan, for the moment, every morning when I go into his room I not only have to watch where I step, I have to do my own little dance to avoid having my ankles bitten.
As the sun is going down this evening and Ramón calls to me from outside the window to come in for his dinner, I think about how living with and loving any beast is never free of its messes or love bites – but how drab our lives would be without them.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats http://www.stargazingfarm.org
tel: (301) 349-0802