Before I lived on a farm, I didn’t know anything about chickens. My knowledge of chickens was limited to cartoons, which meant I thought chickens sat happily in a hen house laying eggs all day while a giant protective rooster roamed the area fending off crafty foxes and uttering things like, “I say, I say, Boy, you’re about as sharp as a bowling ball…”
It turns out, like most creatures, chickens are more complex than they appear. Their personalities vary wildly and so does their intelligence. My girl Lacy could have done calculus if she wanted to, but I’ve had other hens that spend their day happily pecking at their reflection on the chrome on my car.
Another thing I didn’t know about chickens is that most hens don’t want to sit on their eggs. The brooding instinct has been bred out of chickens by farmers for years and now most hens just lay an egg and walk away like, “Uh-uh. That ain’t my baby. I got a life to live!”
But every so often, that brooding instinct will kick in and we’ll find a hen sitting on a pile of eggs. Some farmers, good farmers, would just shoo her right off her eggs because they know a very important farm fact —
If the eggs are allowed to hatch, at least half or more of the chicks will turn out to be roosters.
(Why is that a problem? Read on!)
I, on the other hand, being a bad farmer, don’t take the hen off her eggs. As a mother, I just can’t seem to do it. There’s this sweet chicken sitting happily on her pile of future children and there’s no way on earth I can just rip them away from her. I think, So I get to have kids, but she doesn’t? That’s unfair! And why am I deciding? You know, I chose this life because I wanted my kids to grow up on a farm, not to play God all day!
So I leave the nice hen on her eggs and then about a month later she hatches a bunch of roosters.
But they’re tiny little puffy adorable roosters and we all fall in love with them.
There’s a feed store in town that will take roosters and then sell them to whomever wants them — some people want them for pets, most people want them for dinner. And when I’m holding one of these fluffy, innocent little roosters I think, There’s no way I could ever call the feed store about these guys.
And then the roosters grow up and they slowly wear away at my resolve of being an animal lover.
First of all, at about six months old, they start crowing all night long starting from 3:00 a.m. About once a minute — no exaggeration — these roosters crow. Right now we have six roosters crowing constantly like they’re on a special guest appearance of Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor: “I’d like to welcome the roosters from Holly and Bill’s farm who will be harmonizing tonight on an original composition they call, ‘Crowin’ ’til the ax handle falls.”
But providing us with sleepless nights is nothing compared to what the roosters do to us in the daytime. That’s when they turn into a roving, angry mob. If these roosters could wear bandanas around their beaks and hold clubs under their wings, they would. If they could get in a low rider and drive really slowly past our house and spray machine gun fire through the windows, they would. If they could set fire to the hen house and wave a rooster flag around while screaming in front of television cameras, they would.
They inhabit the worst qualities of man, encased in feathers.
Hens start hiding all over the yard for fear of being gang raped. They stay on their perches too afraid to hop down for even a drink of water. Rooster attacks are heard all over the yard. The kids throw pine cones at them. The dogs chase them. But nothing deters these roosters from trying to get it on with anything that moves and has feathers. If I put the roosters in their own pen they would try to kill each other and that’s just too gruesome, so on they roam, torturing all of us.
Yesterday, I saw four roosters piling on top of a hen and tearing her feathers out while she screamed — not clucked — but screamed. Help me! Help me! Someone help me! I ran out of the house all hillbilly-like, barefoot and waving a broom. When the roosters ran off, I saw that the hen they had been raping was their own MOTHER.
And that’s when I snapped. That’s when the last drop of animal-lover sympathy drained from my body and I became Amanda Plummer in Pulp Fiction. I went from “I love you, honey-bunny” to “I’m going to execute every mother-fucking last one of you!”
I called the feed store this morning,
They said they don’t have any room for roosters right now.
Call back in a couple weeks.
(Let the silent screaming begin…)