Monday, February 21, 2011

Fowl Play

I don’t have a photograph, so you’re going to have to use your imagination. We have two white roosters. Their names are Henny and Harry. Harry is a little bigger than Henny. They get into fights and Henny always gets the worst of it. The other day, I was in the room we built behind the garage, and above the goat grotto. It’s my music room and kind of sanctuary. The other day, I went in and decided to play one of the acoustics. Usually, my back is to the north facing window. Sometimes I turn around and look out. I saw the two of them going at it. They thrust our their chests, thump against one another and then literally go for the throat... or the comb. As usual, Henny resembles nothing less than Jake LaMotta after a serious beating. His comb and wattle, usually cardinal red are spotted in black blood. But he keeps going at it. I turn around and try to play something. The next time I look out, I see Henny sitting in the deep grass by himself. Not dead but pretty damned defeated. I try to decide whether I should play “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” or go out and see if I can do anything for the overpowered rooster. I get through two verses and put the guitar in the stand and go outside.

One of Henny’s eyes are closed. His comb and wattle look much worse close up. He standing still but his neck is jerking back and forth like the flag of the pole in the hole at a golf course on a windy day. He offers little resistance when I pick him up. Very unlike a free-range rooster. But, what do I do with him?

I brought him into the garage and set up the dog crate, scratching the fender of my parked car in the process. I put down a little straw and placed him gently in the midst of it. I was like Jackie Gleason asking Mountain Rivera after the fight where he was.

“I’m in Pittsburgh and it’s raining.”

Henny stayed pretty much where I put him. I went up and got some paper towels and the hydrogen pyroxide. There was a thick blood snot hanging from Henny’s beak. I wiped it off and tried cleaning up his crown. He shrunk away in pain and irritation. Then I put him back in the generously fenced off area where he lives with about sixteen or so other chickens and three goats. I placed him in some of the taller grass, away from any other animals (at the moment). I didn’t know what else to do. Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.

Bea would know what to do. She came home and we decided we’d sequester Henny in the chicken area up the hill, that’s divided in half—with the coop on one side and the poultry penthouse on the other. Both were open at the moment–have been for months–and the inhabitants are about as free range as you can get, being a chicken. We place him in a dog crate outside in the half with the penthouse. That night he stayed locked up in the penthouse. At least he was safe from Harry and other predators, like raccoons. In the morning we trimmed the feathers on one of his wings to impeded his flying and set him loose in the penthouse half of the chicken area, keeping the chicken wire door locked. Well, chicken wire is not exactly solid and the chickens free to hang out on the other side of the fence tended to notice the new kid on the block. Schmellman–the oversized bard rock rooster with the horribly misshapen feet and Johnny Havlichick (son of Larry Bird) took exception to the white rooster with the bloody comb. They started squawking and try to get to Henny through the fence. Well, this wasn’t going to work.

We moved Henny back downstairs with Team Fabio, where he belongs. But we couldn’t just let him loose. He was now as good as James Caan after Kathy Bates hobbled him in Misery. He was easy game for Harry. Clearly, we hadn’t thought this through.

We still have the portable tractor that Bea ordered when we first got chickens. There were five at the time. It turned out two were roosters—Fabio and Schmellman. How that number grew to over two dozen is an issue of mystery, bewilderment and consternation. We slipped Henny into the screened in tractor, safe, for the time being, from the gawking girls, along with Harry, Chuck and Fabio. He’ll probably have to stay in there until his wing feathers grow back.

The inestimable Johnny Havlichick

"Shmelly" Schmellman

Meanwhile, we had inadvertently riled up Schmellman and Johnny. They started going at it. Now, Johnny Havlichick is the son of a banty. He’s not all that big himself. He’s pretty much a good guy and he takes care of his three sisters. But introducing a strange rooster into the mix got his juices going. Schmellman, being old and handicapped, is no match for the younger, faster, healthier Johnny. This morning, we found Schmellman bloodied on his comb and wattle and cut on one of his feet. All because I couldn’t let nature be and not intercede in the aftermath of Henny’s fisticuffs with Harry. We cleaned and dressed the cut on Schmellman’s foot and locked him into the penthouse half. Of course, everyone else in his team have full, untrimmed wings and can fly over and hang with him anytime. He just can’t get up and out.

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