Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Rooster Problem


       Rooster Hummock


  Aunt Sammy's voice seemed to come from an enormous radio deep between her   breasts.  This was partly due to her professional training and partly due to the Chesterfields she smoked.   Aunt Sammy  wasn't really anybody's Aunt, but a family friend who had been the northern New York voice   of Uncle Sam's wife for the local  U.S.D.A. radio broadcasts, offering   recipes, household hints and chat,  in the years before the Depression.     
     During the Depression, Uncle Sam quit paying for the broadcasts, and Sammy gave music lessons.  She took to spending summers in the north and winters in Florida, always working on a cook book.  She  was friends with Majorie Kinnan Rawlings, the Florida writer who also had  family in the Adirondacks, and   Rawlings  helped  Sammy  locate and buy a small island  in the Florida swamp lands.  The island had only a big storage shed,  an abandoned   moonshine shack, and a dock with a john boat.....and  Mr LaRoy, an Afro Asian man who helped Sammy convert the still to a stove and fix the place up for her to  write her Still Kitchen Cook Book.... and raise chickens Mr. LaRoy supplied.          Most of the chickens were roosters  and  they were not  trained for cock fighting,  but  all roosters have six to ten times the   Testosterone levels of humans, and so they must be  dealt with.
    Instead of killing them for broilers  at the onset of adolescence,   Mr. LaRoy  visited every two weeks to  round up and milk the roosters for the roostosterone.....and he left the next day, carrying the  stuff  in vials.   We up north knew   about the chickens,   but   we  didn't know about Mr. LaRoy's special business.





  And we didn't know about the business between Sammy and William.
           During her summers in the North country, Aunt Sammy   visited us often at Loon Island, and  little   William  took a liking to her    That was unusual, because when visitors  were around he   mostly  stood off  in the bushes or sat in a tree.  He was    twelve or fifteen at the time. His age has always been uncertain, as he was not my real brother, and didn't seem to be much older at that point than when he had first shown up in our family garden six or eight years previously.
     So when Aunt Sammy and   William announced   that he wanted to go and  live  with her for a while  on Rooster Hummock (or  "Hammock" as they say down there)  Mom and Dad were  surprised..... but  relieved that he wouldn't be spending another season mostly wandering around and sleeping outdoors. 

          What we didn't know about Sammy and William, was that  during her visits with us, she  had been  secretly breast feeding him.    
   It's not as if you would expect that to be going on, but   I suppose  access to  roostosterone  had something to do with the fact that Aunt Sammy, who had never even had any biological children, was lactating at age fifty something.   

    And of course, wild child that he was and is,William has never complained;  and on Rooster Hummock,  he was usually out  with the  hens, sucking   eggs,  and  rumpusing with the roosters.
  He helped Mr. LaRoy with the rooster round-up and each time Mr. LaRoy gave him a quarter, which William put in a sock .

       Until early one morning, he  snuck out and away   back  to  the North Country,  carrying a favorite  hen and a sock full of quarters  in  Aunt Sammy's guitar case.
 

        

      
   
     The Three Guys Protection Agency

                My first ever shipment of chickens arrived one cold, early Spring, and included fifteen or  twenty unexpected  rooster chicks , added   as   biodegradable thermal-mass to keep the desired chicks warm.   I had already  decided that, besides as a source of  broiler meat or roostosterone, there ought to be a natural role for roosters,  and that we would work it out.   One of the first things to learn about chickens is that they grow and mature   but very soon they got to be  unruly , aggressive, and  unmanageable adolescents.  
  At that time  I knew that  my brother    William was  wandering  around between   Coy Glen and Dietrich's barn where he sometimes slept and read books I had stored there.....   so I caught up with him reading in the barn, and asked him  him to come here to help me deal with the chickens. 
   
                   William said he  was planning to build a boat right there in Dietrich's barn and then navigate   up through the lakes to the Arctic....which you can do on a map, anyway.
       I told him he could build his  ark right here at Dog's Plot,
            So he came, and did.


  At first he groused  about my    keeping so many roosters  and when I suggested he milk the roosters, and he  refused....wouldn't  eventell me how it's done.
  
      But really the Roosters weren't much of a problem for William.  He knew all the   strut and bluff , wing dance, and chest butt stuff.  He he took the roosters on one by one.  
 Occasionally body language was not sufficient and he would humble a rooster by pulling out a tail feather.   If enhanced intimidation was needed,  he liked to footbowl the attacker into the pond.  Roosters can't exactly fly, and they can't quite swim,,  but they can   flop across the water...... which amused William and  gave the roosters a  moment to remember. 
     He had to kill some, just to eliminate the genetically determined  assassins.  He used the shotgun for the noise effect.  
                  By the time there were only a dozen or so  left, he could control the surviving witnesses  by just carrying a stick,  held as if it was the  gun .   
    
           
                 William came out of his Ark  each morning  and led the three Red Star roosters  from their perch on my deck rail, down to the chicken house, where he would  give each   a small stash of corn or sunflower seeds or whatever,  then  open the hen house door. 

     He needed to stand over them a while, but food is the trick to  tipping the roosters into their better  natured   routine,  calling the hens to the food, clucking over a particularly big chunk of something,  tossing it ,  then moving on  , calling the hens to foraging, nesting, and dusting places,  themselves  standing tall, still, and handsome.... Lefty, Dot, and Whitey, in a  rough triangle around the unconcerned hens -  tails up, or sprawling in the dust.



   When the hens came    back to   the hen house , often  before noon,   William  would release the unemployed   roosters kept in their own wing of the chicken house....  and then  there  might  be   a wild rumpus, which William sometimes entered, throwing and bowling roosters.

           I gave him my old laptop so he wouldn't get bored with this place, but pretty soon he was  blogging about how he was going to take his Ark   up the great lakes.
But    the ark  turned out to be so heavy   he couldn't  even drag it across the   driveway. I don't think it would float either......  even on ice,

        And then, of course,  his old girl friend Gee appeared.
                A few months and several business plans later ,   she was gone.
                         And a few days after she went down the road.....William  left too,
     I don't know where they are now,  might be gone  south with Missy Hooligan's Tall Animal Review.
               

                                                 
    Disorder at Dog's Plot

         After William   left,   about all I had to do for the chickens was break bread, open doors, and stand around a  while  to make sure the roosters got off on the right foot..
  

   And so,   the triumvirate of Dot, Lefty, and Whitey had it covered, we had a period of peace and  stability.
        
   That was until  late last summer, when Lefty suddenly got the black shits and died off the rail.

Link to Lefty:  http://dogs-plot.blogspot.com/2010/07/i-remember-lefty.html   

   When  Lefty had been gone a day, Whitey started challenging top rooster  Dot.   He attacked Dot. straight on ,    he attacked him from behind, attacked with claw, beak, and spur .....but Dot was  more  shocked and surprised,  than enraged.  He didn't defend himself well..  
       You are supposed to expect this kind of challenge.    This is how roosters sort things out, and  people might  not want to mess with Mother Nature or try  to introduce democratic values to chickens.
   
      On the second day....... bloody feathers and streaming wattles...those two were going at it hard, right in front of the house .    Whitey was on Dot, at his neck, chop, chop, chop, and not going to stop.
.
           So I ran out and booted Whitey off....not hard enough to break anything,   but not a mere foot boost.....  hard enough that he landed on his feet  about five yards away and kept on going, flapping and squawling, outraged and humiliated.  Maybe too hard.

I was out with my camera when it happened and didn't manage to turn it off, or to include much of the violence, but you can hear Whitey's protest and   Dot's triumphant flapping.

     

   After breaking up the coup,   I didn't see Whitey around for the rest of the day.


          That night  I went out with a flashlight ........and found him  roosting on a carry- beam under the deck.

          The next day he came out from under the house,  but  if he got too near,  Dot chased him off.   
                         The two nights following,  Whitey sat in the dog house on the deck, 
     
      I gave him some Friehoffer's oatmeal bread and then  let him in the house to scooch in the the guest   chair.  
  Next night   Whitey roosted up  on the  recyclables bin  the roosters use to get up on the rail.......
right smack under Dot .

     And the next night after that, he was up on the end rail....  three feet to the left of Dot,   half a space left where Lefty used to be. 

     Mornings now, Whitey and Dot  both accompany me to the chicken house, I set them up, and they range with the hens.   They manage, but  it's a  two dimensional, arrangement in a three dimensional world.  Sometimes the hens straggle  out of the pincer   and the two roosters  split up with the two groups,   or one of the roosters might   wander off alone  to   nap, flap,  and   crow.
        
    This year I  raised some  Americuna , Chilean/Ameircan chicks who started in the house but are  now totally outdoor birds.   The sleep in the sumachs, and  occasionally  lay eggs in my tool boxes.      Whitey   tries to wrangle them about a lot of the time now, but  the Anerunas are wild and agile fliers who easily evade the roosters and me.


    One  warm day a week or two ago  I  left the sliding door open and  Whitey  Came in.  He sat in the guest chair, and began to cluck and chuckle quietly,    After a few minutes,   one of the Aracuna pullets came in.
Whitey chuckled her to the chair, and she got right up and leaned over him  with her head inches away from of his, staring into his eye, or maybe his mouth.  Perfectly still .  Then her three  intense sisters came in too,  and pretty soon I had to shoo them all out.
       Later  Yellow Foot   ....with Whitey right there and me too...   laid   an egg on the chair.  Small and rounded.  They both stared at it..... astounded.... or expectant...its hard to tell what they're thinking..

 

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rajni sharma said...
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