When Birds Go Bad
“Don’t worry. You didn’t kill him. It takes at least a two-by four to kill a rooster.”
I got into a fight with a rooster last week. This has happened several times over the past 25 years on the farm and I try to be patient, but I have found it is a waste of time to attempt to reason with a rooster or a ram or a bull. The male animal brain is built the same way as one of those floppy computer disks with the tab folded over the notch in the right-hand corner. It is designed to carry a certain amount of inherited information, but it will not accept new information. This is why most roosters, like the one last week, have their heads taken off and go into the pot.
Years ago I had a big showy Dominique rooster that ambushed me one morning. I was minding my own business, prying a rotten fence post out of its hole when he came at me out of the sun, like a Messerschmitt fighter plane, smacked into the back of my leg, and latched on with beak and claws. I yelped and kicked him free, but he ran off and circled back for a second run over the target. By this time I had armed myself with a hoe handle and I caught him with one carefully placed windmill swipe to the back of the head that laid him out in the grass, one foot kicking spasmodically at the air.
I went into the house and told my wife that I had just killed my rooster.
“Oh, dear!” she said. “You liked that rooster. What did you hit him with?”
“A hoe handle,” I said.
“Don’t worry. You didn’t kill him,” she assured me. “It takes at least a two-by-four to kill a rooster.”
We went back out and sure enough, the rooster was back on his feet, walking around the orchard. He appeared a little dazed, and didn’t seem to remember who I was or why he was cross with me. He just shook his head every so often as if he were trying to remember where he put his keys.
Heath told me about a fierce little banty rooster that was her father’s pride and joy when she was a little girl. It would attack her whenever she came out to the barn and she hated it. But her father loved that bird. One day she was helping him with the pump and he told her to run up to the barn and turn on the tap in the stable. She was wearing shorts and she knew the rooster would be somewhere in the barn, so she picked up a two-by-four and crept into the dark stable as quietly as she could. The rooster came out of nowhere, but this time she was ready for him. She nailed him squarely with a two-base hit that sent the bird the length of the hallway and into the gutter for the stable cleaner. Then she was overcome with remorse.
“I’ve killed my dad’s favourite rooster,” she wailed. “He’ll be so upset.” She went to the tap to turn on the water, wondering how she was going to break the news to him. She came back and bent over to look at the bird. He looked as dead as a doornail, completely stiff with his feathers fluffed out. She prodded him carefully with the board and he slowly opened one eye.
“Oh my!” I said. “What did you do?”
“I hit him again.”
But the banty rooster survived. He lived in the window of the stable for a couple of years until one night a big wind came along and sucked the window and the rooster out of the wall and took them both back to the bush. Only the window was found.
“So I’d get a two-by-four, if I were you,” she said. “And don’t leave that post hole the way it is. Somebody’s bound to step in it.”
After lunch I was carrying two pails of water to the hens when I felt hot claws sink into my upper thigh. I danced three steps to the left and went up to my hip in the post hole. The pails of water followed. Back at the house, I reported that I had filled in the post hole.
“That was quick,” said Heath.
“Yes,” I said. “The rooster died after all and I needed a hole to bury him.”