And I didn’t do it, I swear.
I didn’t see Mean Rooster all day on Monday. Not that I spend a lot of time seeking him out or anything. But Monday evening it hit me that I couldn’t remember seeing him all day long.
I had seen a stranger, though.
A rooster I’d never seen before….
A number of my chickens roost on the goat pen gates. The goats and Pocahontas often sleep in the goat pen at night in good weather. (When it’s cold, they go into the goat house.) The chickens have been safe there, with the other, larger, animals in their midst to discourage predators. Another group of chickens, and the ducks, tuck in at night in the chicken house.
The ducks don’t want to go into the chicken house. The ducks can’t stand the chickens. Last week, the ducks held a rebellion and refused to go into the chicken house. Chasing them around wore me out late at night and I let them stay out.
One duck went missing. (I don’t know what happened. I just know I have five ducks now, not six.) I pulled back out my determination to get them trained and get them back in the chicken house. I got an old metal coffee can and trained them to come into the chicken yard in the evening. When I bang on the can, it means cracked corn. PARTY!
They fall for it every time. I’ve also managed to get a lot of the chickens who were roosting on the goat pen gates to fall for it, too. The chicken house is stuffed pretty full at night now. They push and shove and jostle for position in their favorite roost spots while the ducks quack their protest beneath them in the straw.
I’m planning a chicken house addition soon. I need more room.
I was banging my cracked corn can Monday evening when I spotted the strange rooster. It’s not as if we have neighbors nearby and I don’t even know of anyone who has chickens around here that isn’t nearly a mile away. But there he was. And I’d never seen him before. He skirted along the hillside, watching, dreaming of cracked corn.
I had all the ducks in the yard and a whole passel of chickens so I had shut the chicken yard gate. I shooed them all inside to the house, then shut the door between the chicken house and yard so I could re-open the gate from the yard to catch a few latecomers. The strange rooster came into the yard, too. I managed to shoo the last few into the house but not the strange rooster.
I don’t know why I wanted to put him in there anyway. He’s not my rooster. But it was dark by then and, well, there he was. I cornered him in the chicken yard and, against my better judgment and prior experience with roosters, picked him up. He screamed. He screamed like I’ve never heard a chicken scream before. He screamed like the hounds of hell were chewing on his wattles and setting fire to his feet.
But he didn’t try to kill me so I tossed him in the chicken house and shut the door. And stared at him through the wire in the door and wondered, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MEAN ROOSTER? Because by then I had missed Mean Rooster.
I even wondered if he was Mean Rooster. If Mean Rooster had undergone some sort of dramatic physical transformation from dark and dangerous to pale and ghost-like. A diabolical Mean Rooster trick! Because where else had this rooster come from? Was there something wrong with my eyesight? Surely that had to be Mean Rooster because roosters don’t just show up out of nowhere in the middle of nowhere.
I waited till morning, to look at him again in better light. The stranger was definitely a rooster, and he was definitely a rooster I’d never seen before.
And Mean Rooster was quite definitely dead, as I soon discovered. I found him under a table near the goat pen gates. No evidence of what happened, body intact. Either something got him while he was roosting or there was a rooster fight under the table and Mean Rooster lost. Was the new rooster involved? Was it one of the old roosters who just got tired of being bullied? Maybe it was a duck. Maybe the ducks finally had their day. (Okay, not likely.)
Whatever did happen, no one’s telling.
And you know if anyone knows, it’s them.
But none of the animals, and especially none of the other roosters, are talking.
The hens don’t seem concerned at all.
Recently, I’d been making some progress with Mean Rooster. I’d even taken to going near him without my rake or broom. I don’t know what changed, if it was me or Mean Rooster. I just know we weren’t finished, Mean Rooster and I. I know that I spent most of this year afraid he was going to peck out my eyeballs or rip into my jugular. I know that I cried when I found him dead and I know that I will miss him.
And I know that I don’t have the faintest idea where this other rooster came from.
Mean Rooster was the second chick I ever hatched and my first rooster. He was my nemesis and my nightmare. He was always interesting and never friendly. Without Mean Rooster, who will fly over the gate to assault me? Who will stalk me along the fence? Who will test my courage and hone my not-so-steely spine?
He was a worthy adversary.
Goodbye, Mean Rooster!
And about that strange rooster…. Yesterday morning, after his night in my chicken house and just before I found Mean Rooster’s body, he went up the hillside from whence he appeared and I haven’t….