This past week was definitely the 'week of the rooster' here at Rock's Roost. Up until then I had two roosters in residence, both Aracanas and both focused on servicing and protecting the dozen hens who also call The Roost home. Those two roosters and one little banty hen were given to me by the neighbor boy who didn't want to take care of them over the winter.
Last Wednesday that same lad's dog, a beagle, escaped his pen and came over to my place in search of some excitement. That vicious little mutt quickly killed one hen and then mauled both roosters, leaving them badly wounded and in an obvious state of shock. I found one of those roosters dead the next day, and the other seems to have permanently disappeared.
The roosters were gone, taking with them all of their fuss and racket - and the hovering protection which they provided to the hens. The loss of those rowdy birds seemed to drain the vitality right out of The Roost.
My grandson, Boone, was in town Saturday, and he and I went to a poultry swap. The swap itself was an interesting experience with twenty or so "vendors" gathered in a vacant lot and showing different farm critters which they hoped to sell or trade among themselves. I was shopping for a rooster to replace the ones I had lost, and I also was interested in trying to find guinea chicks and a Great Pyrenees pup.
The small roadside swap meet had plenty of poultry including a variety of baby chicks (but no guineas), ducks, geese, and even a few turkeys. Several of the vendors also had baby bunnies for sale. I didn't encounter any dogs - Great Pyrenees or otherwise. One of the sellers had six or seven roosters for sale, including two relatively young Rhode Island Red roosters - the same breed as my hens. I didn't expect them to be expensive - roosters are always cheaper than egg-laying hens unless they have been raised for fighting - and I was not disappointed. The young man selling the roosters wanted a dollar each for his birds! I bought the two Rhode Island Reds and a five-dollar homemade cage to transport them him. It was seven dollars very well spent!
I put their cage in the henhouse when I got home and opened the door. Within minutes the boys had freed themselves and begun exploring the henhouse and then the farm. They hit it off well with the girls and seemed to really enjoy the wide and green expanse of the farm. Two days later it is as though they have always lived at Rock's Roost, with one glaring exception: they won't sleep in the henhouse, preferring instead to roost in a large nearby bush. Hopefully the two new roosters will soon get over their adolescent awkwardness and move in with the ladies of the coop.
(I know they are adolescents because their tail feathers are still coming in, and they are struggling to find their crowing voices.)
Today's poem, "Rooster," by Eric Ormsby, offers an endearing physical appraisal of the noble birds who give voice to life on the farm. Please enjoy it.
by Eric Ormsby
So jauntily exact,
Then droops one springy yellow claw aloft
Just like a tailor gathering up a pleat.
And then there are those small surprising lilts,
Both rollicking and staid,
That grace his bishop's gait,
Like a waltzer on a pair of supple stilts
Or a Russian on parade.
His red, demented eye
To tipsy calibrations of his comb
And ogles the barnyard with a shopkeeper's stance.
Sometimes his glossy wattles shudder and bulge
As he bends his feathered ear
And listens, fixed in trance.
When drowsy grubs below the ground indulge
And then stretch up for air.
Brisk and executive,
And the careless victim flipflops in his grip!
I like the way his stubby little beak
Produces that dark, corroded croak
Like a grudging nail tugged out of stubborn wood:
No 'cock-a-doodle-doo' but awk-a-awk!
He yawps whenever he's in the mood
And the thirst and clutch of life are in his squawk.
Of the waking light that falls
Along his shimmery wings and bubbling plumes
As though light pleasured in tangerine and gentian
Or sported like some splashy kid with paints.
But Rooster forms his own cortège, gowns
Himself in marigold and shadow, flaunts
His scintillant, prismatic tints -
The poorest glory of a country town.