Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Short Tale of Silver the Rooster

Back in March, as you may remember, Long John Silver the unplanned and unloved Americana rooster  was a feathers width from the chopping block.

He continued to be unreasonable with the hens to the point that they all, one by one, mutinied. Every day, one more Americana hen would move out of their pen and into the Cuckoo Marans pen to roost for the night.
Finally Silver was alone with his over sized libido and after a couple of weeks of watching him jumping out of the bushes to grab hens and cornering unwilling hens in the open pens, it was deemed by all the inhabitants of the Homestead that he was to be sentenced to solitary confinement and if we could not find a home for him this summer, he would meet his maker and/or our soup pot.

Silver himself was informed of this decision, his door was firmly latched and the search began for a new home. But it seems there are many more roosters in the world than there are homes and so Silver was to be dispatched as soon as someone had the time.
And so he did dwell for many weeks, alone in one of the chicken pens, eating kitchen scraps and waiting. That is, until the day he escaped while his water was being filled...

After a lifetime of living with chickens I will be the first to tell you they are not really the smartest animals on the farm, usually.

There have been exceptions.

There was for instance a hen named "Tweetie Bird" who came into my mothers life as an orphan and was raised by her, after I had moved away from home.

Used to being the apple of my mothers eye, I actually became jealous of this bird. Whenever we would meet for coffee, she would go on and on about how smart Tweetie Bird was.
She would interrupt phone calls with me to talk about what Tweetie Bird was doing right then that was so cute or smart.

Of course I always took her stories with a large grain of salt, and then one day I called my Mom and got the Answering Machine. Instead of the usual greeting, the recording was 3 minutes of Tweetie Bird singing the happy chicken song (if you have chickens, you know what the happy chicken song is) and then a beep.

The message I left was a chastisement of how my mom had taken her relationship with this chicken too far.
She called a couple of hours later and had no idea what I was talking about.

What we finally figured out was that Tweetie Bird had come onto the mud porch where the answering machine lived and had stepped onto the correct buttons in such a way as to leave an outgoing message.
I never doubted my moms stories about Tweetie Bird again.

Another was the hen named "Qweet." She was, again, an orphan rescued by our, then, 6 year old daughter June.
Qweet was not an electronic genius like Tweetie Bird, but she was an amazingly companionable hen.

She would sit on Junes shoulder and share Popsicles. One bite for June, one bite for Qweet and so on. Bird Flue was certainly not on our radar back then. Qweet endured all of Junes games, costumes, falconry garb, matching calico dresses (sewn by my mom) and just about any whim that caught Junes fancy. All with a calmness and happy go lucky attitude I would only expect from an elderly Black Lab.

And now we may have to add Silver to this short list of poultry personalities.

I wasn't at the Homestead when he escaped so my first clue that something had shifted was when I fed the horses and down in the stall with Rio was Silver clucking and preening and gobbling up hay seeds.

"What is the meaning of this weird event? The Rooster has moved in with the horses?" I pondered this for the rest of the day. There was no way I was going to be able to catch him in the daylight so I would just watch him at dusk to see where he was roosting and catch him then.

I got busy that day and forgot to watch him. Days and then weeks went by, and Silver remained at the top of the hill, where he never ventured more than 20 feet from the horse pasture. I have to admit that even though he had been nothing less than a heartless marauder in his past, he was now an odd guy who really just wanted to be left alone with his new comrade Rio.

I have to admit it became impossible to think about chopping Silvers head off when I would watch them out grazing together.
If Silver had found a new peaceful life for himself, who was I to interfere?

Even though the other hens would forage their way up to the top of the hill every day, Silver would pointedly ignore them, choosing to stay inside the boundaries of the horse pasture instead. Roosting at night on the corner post of the up-hill fence.

If you have a good sense of the heroic story, you have probably guessed that this story does not end happily.

Silver was, well, silver. This is a color that is highly visible at night. And populating the night are many things that love to eat chicken.

Six weeks after his escape, on Thanksgiving Day (Oh, the irony!), we found no rooster in the horse pasture, but instead, a small puddle of silver feathers.

I had known that day was coming, chickens are very low on the food chain, but it was a little sad anyway to see him gone.

But, as Buck pointed out "At least he died the way he wanted to, with the wind blowin' in his hair."