My daughter, Neva, is coming down with a cold. I let her stay home today because there was only a half day of school. It’s the beginning of a four-day “fall break” here, a very nice tradition that affords families a few days of fun just as the leaves are changing and the fall festivals are in progress. The problem is, keeping my under-the-weather daughter home means she must accompany me to my reading lesson with Kathy. She has been dying to meet Kathy in person, so I thought this would be fine, if she promised to be good and remain non-intrusive – no small feat for this overly energetic, curious little girl. She promised to try.
As I taught, Neva sat quietly on the couch of the lounge playing her game-boy – one eye slipping towards Kathy now and again. It was obvious she was dying to sit at the table and watch us more closely, maybe add her two cents into my instruction, but I had threatened her with her life, and liking her life as she does, she kept a safe (respectful) distance. The lesson went well. They are giving Kathy a second assessment test next week to see if she has made any progress. We both know she’ll do well (she has come a long way from the beginning, when she barley recognized the alphabet) but still, as a matter of pride, we are working hard now to assure she scores well.
After the lesson, I figured I should do something to reward Neva’s self-control and to help cure her cold. The best thing I could think of to chase away the sniffles is . . . well, to buy a rooster, of course! Animal acquisition is good medicine for anything that ails you, in my opinion, so we went to the feed store to inquire about that tame, gregarious bird they had for sale yesterday. Neva is my partner in crime for all things relating to wildlife, don’t ya know.
The term “pecking order” comes from raising chickens, because the problem with introducing a new chicken to a flock is that there are bound to be fights, especially if the new bird is male and bigger than everyone else in the pen. After asking questions, Neva and I decided to try it, promising to hang around and watch to be sure a war didn’t ensue. Twenty-five bucks bought us a one year old, gorgeous, sex-link rooster. Sex-link is not a description of his personality (shame), but his breed. Nevertheless, the name seems to describe a bird that will inspire some major egg laying to me. Since I would only consider an inspirational cock for my chicks, he suited me perfectly. He doesn’t peck at people and will let you hug him too, so Neva found him perfect as well.
We set the new rooster lose in our coup, and instantly he began fighting with little Drumstick, our tiny, banie rooster. Eek. The feathers on both bird’s necks poofed out like lion manes and they began flapping and flying into each other, pecking and squawking. Imagine a little beagle fighting with a huge Saint Bernard and you get the picture. It was not a fair fight, as size goes. This did not bode well for long-term success, but before we began panicking, we put the new rooster in a cage in the pen, thinking he would acclimate to his new digs safely this way. We hoped they would all get acquainted through the bars of this temporary confinement. The birds circled the cage, staring, curious yet leery, about the newcomer.
Meanwhile, I said, “Neva, it is no secret that Mom has been coveting a big, fat cock for some time (ahem) and therefore, I think it’s my turn to pick a name for a pet. I want to name this one Joe, because of the singer Joe Cocker, whose voice some people consider music and others consider noise.”
She thought about it and agreed Joe was a good name.
Joe started to crow. His crowing seemed to set off Drumstick, who now began crowing in his little, meek voice too. Neva and I both appreciate the glory of a rooster bellow, so we did the happy dance, then decided we should see how far the noise would travel. We walked towards the house, enjoying the way the bird’s serenade followed us down the path. We even slapped each other five when a particularly loud cock-a-doodle-do rang out a 10th of a mile from the coup. Unfortunately, loud as Joe is, from the house his crow is only a subtle, distant cry. Bummer. But you can still hear him, as if you’re listening to a bird in a neighbor’s yard a couple blocks away – graceful but not jarring, which Mark will appreciate.
Neva and I inspected the house progress (another story altogether) then, returned to the coup. Now, the flock seemed more accepting of the new cock, so we let Joe loose. He chased a few of the girls a bit, and squawked at Drumstick, but mostly, it seemed everyone was going to cohabitate in peace. Whew.
Just as we were preparing to go, Neva says, “Um, Mom. Look.”
I turned to see two chickens “doing it.” At least, I think they were “doing it” – unless they were taking up mud wrestling or something. Little Drumstick jumped on Potpie and started doing the funky chicken (and I’m not talking about the dance.)
I guess, the arrival of a new rooster made our little rooster’s male hormones kick in, and since he can’t outfight the other guy, he wants to show that he can out-#%&* him.
Neva said, “Looks like that is how chickens make eggs.”
I explained that chickens make eggs without a male, so what those two are doing is probably fertilizing eggs. Fertilized eggs will hatch if you leave them be. Fascinating. At that moment, it occurred to me that my daughter and I were learning the true facts of the birds and the bees at the same time. How many people can profess that kind of naiveté!
Goodness, but life is interesting here.
Anyway, my daughter and I now have a big, bold cock to stroke anytime we want now.
Repeat that without smiling and I’ll give you a nickel.