Saturday, 19 June 2010
He Had To Die
At first it was simple hen-pecking, dominance games, lovers´quarrels. But those eventually degenerated into bloody sexual battery. Soon the suspect, a cocky youngster with a bad attitude, was assaulting everyone in his path, challenging every authority, leaving a trail of blood and curses in his wake.
So we killed him.
This afternoon Milagros, a seasoned poultry handler, did what none of us had the guts to do. She gathered Mad Max the rooster into her blue apron, grasped him tight in her capable hands, and broke his neck.
Offing Max was not a sudden decision. Snowy the hen is just now recovering from the infected wounds beneath her wings, where Max´s spurs gouged her skin. All but two of our hens, all of them half the size of their magnificent mate, have bare patches on their backs, where his claws and beak ripped away their feathers. Chicken Answers website says mating doesn´t have to be so violent, but some roosters just like it that way. Solutions? Buy more hens. Separate him from the girls. Or casserole the cockerel.
We don´t want more hens just now. Yesterday we tried separating Max from the flock, but somehow he engineered a jailbreak – and soon the entire flock, battered and torn, was making a beeline for our vegetable garden. I rounded-up the hens easily enough (the girls come when I call to them), but once they were safely inside the fence, Max decided to take me on. Attacking Paddy has become a daily sport for him, but Max always treated me with respect. Until yesterday. It was time for a Showdown.
He ruffled his feathers into a Samurai warrior helmet, hopped forward twice on his absurd toes, then launched himself at me. I took all 20 pounds of seething chicken fury right at the knees. Wings flapping and claws clawing, he caught hold of my pantleg with his beak. He didn´t realize I was holding a chunk of kindling in my hand. I caught him a heavy blow upside the head, which sent him tumbling into the chicken yard. I closed the door behind me. Inside, Max picked himself off the ground and staggered upright. He shook out his ruff, stretched out his neck, and crowed.
He thought he´d won. Foolish fowl.
I went inside and sat down at the table where Patrick was reading. “We need to talk,” I told him.
“It´s that mad rooster,” he said, not looking up. “I know.”
We agreed we don´t need a cockerel. Hens happily lay eggs without any help from a male of their species. And they appear more presentable when their feathers are not gouged out.
This afternoon was my turn to sit at the church and greet visiting pilgrims, which usually means greeting visiting neighbors, at least in the slow afternoons. And when Milagros arrived, I told her about Max, the abuse, the attacks, the hubris. Milagros said she´d happily whack him for me. Roosters his age are delicious, she said, if you cook them long enough. Lots of dark meat. She walked home with me, scooped the big bird right off his feet, and carried him away to meet his fate.
And so this evening Estevín, Milagros´ son and our Honorable Mayor, delivered to The Peaceable the earthly remains of Max, tucked in a plastic bag, plucked and ready for the crock-pot. I was not present for the encounter, but Paddy and Kim told Estevín to take the critter home and eat him. They couldn´t bear to chow down on someone they know.
It´s full-circle then, for old Max – he returned to whence he came. Milagros and Esteban gave Max to us last year, when he was still a leggy youngster. Milagros said she´d give us another teenager to replace him, but the new guy probably will grow up to be just as nasty. That´s just how roosters are, if you don´t eat them when they´re young.
Max had a good innings. He got to grow into a magnificent creature, who greeted each day with a hearty song, stood his ground against Patrick´s daily incursions, and gobbled grubs and grain and greenery. He was wonderfully stupid and gleefully game. But he abused his wives. Which is something up with which we shall not put. Not in a place noted for peaceability.
It had to happen. I was not the executioner, but I was the executive – I made the final decision. I contracted the killing. His blood is on my hands.
And his carcass is on Milagros´ table. Stewed slowly with lashings of cognac, the fine fat free-range Max will make them a magnificent dinner.