Call of the rooster
Thursday, January 12, 2017 12:02 AM
Every morning in the predawn darkness, I hear the call of our rooster. I do not quite wake up, but I know, somewhere in my dream sleep, that soon I will. I roll over and stretch my toes, his call echoing in my mind as I relish the last of my sleep. Until just the other morning.
We have certainly had a love-hate relationship with this big, beautiful bird. He has faithfully protected our flock of hens from the creek valley predators, but he has also chased us ruthlessly about the farm. Greg even bears his scars.
On numerous occasions, he has held me captive in my car as I return to the farm, puffing out his chest, flapping his wings and stretching out his neck as he calls a warning that he is dominant and I am not. So we have carried sticks, rooster deflection devices and corralled him in one of the dog runs when company and children come to visit. But no more.
The other morning I did not hear his call as I lay snuggled under the covers. As I climbed out of bed, I thought that perhaps I was snuggled too deep and the covers had muffled my hearing. I made the coffee and we went about our morning routine, but whenever I looked out the kitchen window, I could not see him. I saw our various hens, scratching about the yard, but no sign of our big white bird.
As I washed the breakfast dishes and swept the cabin floor, Greg tended to the animals. I heard his boot steps on the front porch and then the door open. I turned. Our eyes met. He held a large feathered white wing. Our rooster was no more.
I put on my winter jacket and headed back outside with Greg. We surveyed the evidence together. The crime, if not the perpetrator, was quite clear. Several distinct piles of black and orange feathers were scattered around the chicken coop. Several other piles, red and gray, dotted the gravel drive headed down toward the creek, and long white feathers were everywhere.
We reconstructed the crime. Greg and I had been happily watching a movie inside the warm cabin as darkness had fallen. We were indulging in the luxury of evening laziness, having spent the day hard at work putting insulation in the loft of the new house. The dogs lay warm by the fire. We watched the show, our bellies filled with warm soup, as the chickens headed back to their coop.
The predator had lain in wait near the coop and grabbed the first bird. Our rooster tied to protect her, but the predator prevailed. Our birds scattered, but their roosting instinct was strong and they tried once more to return to the coop, but again the predator struck, and again the rooster tried to protect them, to no avail. Another of his hens was lost. And a third and a fourth time the predator returned and still the rooster fought, losing feathers everywhere. Finally, our bold bird chased the predator off down the drive, but there the predator turned, and our rooster lost his wing. Still he fought. The white feathered trail continued, evidence of his valor, until he too disappeared, leaving just a pile of feathers, like his lost hens.
The following morning, I rolled over in my sleep, a wavering rooster call lingering in my mind. I sat bolt upright. The wavering call got stronger. Was I dreaming?
No, I was not dreaming. Some of you may recall that the rooster had fathered three white chicks this past summer, all of whom had survived, thanks to the doting care of their red mother hen. One of these chicks was a fledgling rooster, who during his father’s reign had kept quietly to himself, but now, he was learning to spread his wings.
Over the past few days his call has gotten stronger. He puffs out his chest and flaps his wings as his father had done, but he is hardly his father. He has patches of red feathers on his chest and an orange sheen about him, while his father had been pure white. I am inclined to say that he is not as handsome as his father, but still, I am growing more fond of him with each passing day, and coming to see that he is a beautiful bird in his own right.
When the chicks first hatched, I had hoped that they would all be laying hens and was decidedly disappointed to see that one had clearly grown to show his rooster comb. But I am no longer disappointed. Now I am even thankful.
Yes, indeed, things do seem to have a way of working out, and I have learned from our creek valley world that life does go wonderfully on.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.