Roosters are the boon and the bane of the farmyard. As protectors of the hens, they are fierce contenders. Face off with a rooster asserting his territorial rights and you quickly learn the meaning of “macho.” We have knocked roosters ass over tailfeathers in such confrontations, then had to run away after an even more determined counterattack.
Clyde was that kind of rooster. He let you know he was a master of the universe–his universe–from his first early morning wakeup calls to his defence of his flock. You didn’t mess with Clyde on his turf if you knew what was good for you.
We are using the past tense here because the coyote that nailed Clyde Saturday night apparently didn’t get the message. When Louisa discovered the remains, all that was left of our rooster was a sad little pile of feathers. Louisa was crestfallen at the death of a kindred soul.
We would never have called Clyde a friend exactly, but he did earn our respect. You know New Hampshire’s license-plate motto, “Live Free Or Die”? Well, Clyde managed to do both.
Which raises a broader philosophical question that we are currently wrestling with around here.
If open-pasture grazing for Clyde and his hens–instead of being cooped up in a smaller enclosed run–means you are also prey to predators, is freedom worth the price? In other words, suppose the slogan was, “Live Free and Die.”
We are well aware that this goes beyond chickens, but we’ll stick to the issue at hand for now. We sell most of our hen’s eggs at a nice little profit. But now, with Clyde gone, we have to decide whether to get another rooster and keep the flock at its current size–about 100 hens–or cut back, keeping the remaining hens in our more confined upper chicken run, and skip the new rooster. We’d be trading some profit for some peace.
Around here, this is not all that philosophical. Last night, for instance, when the interns went to lock the hens and other birds into their houses for the night they were startled by a large barred owl that came swooping down out of the trees. The owl was casing the henhouse. It was a dramatic entrance, but it would have been curtains for a stray chick.
In a similar situation the late Clyde would have shooed his hens under the cover of a tree or under the henhouse or some other protection. (If you need a better picture of what we are talking about here, consult the April 28 post, “Farm Guide” for an aerial view of the farm and its various sectors.) Then Clyde, tough guy that he was, would have probably challenged the owl, and maybe driven it away.
On the other hand, experience has taught us that Clyde and his ilk–that is to say, roosters in general–can be a pain. Last year, when one of the interns went into the chicken yard to gather eggs, the rooster jumped him and ended up sitting on his chest. Roosters, with their testosterone overload, seem to get in everyone’s face and they never shut up.
Some women we know would say this is a gender situation not necessarily confined to barnyards–or roosters. That’s another philosphical debate we’ll skip. We’ve got enough on our plate right now.