The Year of the Rooster

Last year in the Chinese calendar it was the “Year of the Rooster”. It was the year of the rooster, too, at Star Gazing Farm, for last year was the year we fell in love with roosters.

I’d always heard unpleasant stories about roosters being aggressive, beating up on each other and chasing people (of course we’re all quite used to that with Mr. Newman Goat here).  On the other hand, in other (I dare say, more sensible) countries, people have roosters living with them no matter where their abode – whether the hills above Lugano Lake in Switzerland, or downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Roosters are a colorful and a musical presence; they hearken us back to our ancient rural roots, and their early morning call is comforting in a very primitive way.   Now, I know what you’re thinking — don’t deny it!  You’re thinking about chicken stew, aren’t you?  Or maybe a few McNuggets.  Admit it now!  You’re wondering how someone can become attached to a 3 pound creature that screams at 5 am every morning.  Right?

But then, you never met Kramer.  I could recount story after story about Kramer, our very first rooster, who won the hearts of all the ladies (he’d quite gently kiss them on the cheek), loved to be cuddled by little girls, and one time even jumped up right on top of Gardener Dean’s head and perched there for a good half hour until Dean could stand the talons in his scalp no longer.

Kramer thought that he was a person; he would follow me right into the house and sit on the sofa while I worked, and he always invited himself to the dinner table.  He sang, did dances, and frequently tried to make love to people’s feet.

When cars would pull up into the driveway, he’d go bustling out to be the first to greet the people, and as they walked around the farm, he would walk alongside, giving a steady commentary.

Unfortunately Kramer also thought that he was about 100 pounds larger than he was.  He terrorized the dogs here at the farm as well as dogs who came to visit (even, one occasion, a pit bull and a wolf hybrid).  And that hubris, alas, was his undoing.  Because a fox has considerably more courage and appetite than your average canine.  We tracked Kramer’s battle
of last May at least 300 feet starting in the garden, down the pasture, and up through the woods.  Kramer’s demise followed upon some other fox attacks on our ducks, all occurring at odd times such as 11 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon; we had wrung our hands, cried, buried the bodies who were left, and kept on going.  But when Kramer died something here snapped.  I
like to think of Kramer’s death as being a sacrifice to bring greater safety to the others on the farm; because after that beloved little charming rooster was so rudely eaten for dinner, we went on the warpath, and that path led us to Derry, our Maremma and livestock guardian dog.

Sadly, we have lost two other roosters since Kramer on occasions when Derry was confined to the house for health reasons: Jerry, a lovely little Bantam rooster (no more than a pound) who loved to sit on people’s shoulders, and Billy Bob, a former street rooster with feathers on his toes who was just beginning to bond with us.  Each was very different from Kramer, of course,
and each was very dear.  And that kick in the gut feeling upon finding the pile of feathers never does diminish.  Because no matter how large or small they were, no matter if they were colored or white, no matter if they sang on key or off, they brought charm and life and companionship to the farm.

“Nature raw in tooth and claw” aside, that someone red and hairy ate my friends for dinner still appalls me.

I’ll bet those BBQ wings don’t look quite so good now, do they? 🙂

Farmer Anne
Star Gazing Farm
http://www.stargazingfarm.org