The Loud-mouthed Rooster

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Rooster photo by Robin Lewis   CC-BY-2.0

I am not a morning person.  I am slow to awake so when the rooster crowed, I easily turned over and fell back asleep.  Several minutes later he crowed again and I dimly thought, “I wish that rooster would shut up,” before dozing off again.   It took him a few more crows before he had me awake enough to think, “Wait a minute….I don’t own a rooster”.

I got out of bed and looked out the window and saw a flock of chickens.   There were about a dozen in total, all hens except for the loud-mouthed rooster strutting around in my flower bed.   Looking closer, I saw they had made a mess out of my flower bed with their scratching and pecking and had even pulled out some of the Grape Hyacinth bulbs that I had recently planted.   When I saw my bulbs laying there in the dirt, I got angry and headed downstairs to shoo them away.

As I got to the backdoor, I realized that I did not have any shoes on so …I grabbed a broom. I didn’t know a lot about chickens, but my grandfather had chickens for a bit and I remembered that his rooster was mean and would come at me and peck at my bare feet or jump up in the air and scratch up my legs with his feet.   Since I didn’t feel like going back upstairs for shoes, I grabbed the broom and decided I would use it to shoo away the chickens and defend myself if needed from the loud-mouthed rooster.

I went outside, in my pajamas, barefoot, running and waving my broom in front of me at the chickens while shouting, “Get out of here!  Scram!  Go away!”   The chickens scattered in a few different directions including two who went over my head, and that’s when I learned that chickens can fly.  I was 25 years old and until that point I had no idea that chickens could fly.    I was dumbfounded.   I know it sounds crazy, of course chickens can fly, they are birds after all, but I had never seen a chicken fly and as I stood there looking up at the tree next to our patio where two chickens were now roosting, I don’t know who was more flustered, the chickens or me.

After trying unsuccessfully for a few more minutes to scare off the chickens, who refused to leave the flower bed or the tree, I gave up and went back inside the house.  It was obvious I needed some help.   I called my neighbor Judy because to see if she knew whose chickens had taken up residence in my yard.

At the time, Judy and her husband rented the home next to ours from an older woman named Bertha.  Although Bertha rented them the home, she still used the barn on the property for her small flock of sheep which spent the day in the field between our house and Judy’s.  After telling Judy about the chickens, she said, “Oh no.  Bertha brought a flock here yesterday, I bet they’re hers.  I’ll go out to the barn and see if they’re in there and I’ll call you back.”

Judy called back a few minutes later to report that there were no chickens in Bertha’s barn. I told Judy that I tried to chase them off but they won’t leave and that they were scratching and pecking in my flower bed and had already dug up some newly planted flower bulbs. She said she would call Bertha and let her know her flock had escaped.

A short while later, Bertha arrived to take her chickens back to her barn.  She felt awful about my flower bed and offered to buy me new flower bulbs.  Since there was no real damage to the flowers I told her no, that there was nothing a spade and a shovel couldn’t fix. She seemed happy with that and promised she would lock the chickens in the barn so that this wouldn’t happen again.

Using a walking stick  she rounded up the chickens, including the loud-mouthed rooster, and led them down the side of the road passing in front of the sheep field, up Judy’s drive-way and into the barn.   I never saw anything like it, she just followed behind them, keeping them in a small group using the walking stick, tapping those that got out of line back into place and let them lead the way.

After that, it became commonplace to see Bertha walking her chickens every day. Because she kept them cooped up in the barn most of the time, she made a point of walking them through her field at least once a day, letting them scratch and peck as they wished, but using her walking stick to keep them together as a flock, tapping the sides of any that strayed too far.   After walking the field with them for an hour or so, she’d put them back in the barn until the next day, when the Bertha chicken parade would begin again.  I never got tired of watching it.

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