I have two roosters. I’m reminded of that each morning at daybreak when they start their crowing competition. Sometimes they start it for some unknown reason in the middle of the night. However, they’re family and you’re stuck with family, right? Anyway, this is their story.
First of all I had better quickly preface this story by explaining to those who don’t know that “chook” is Australian for “chicken”. I’m not a huge user of Australianisms but “chicken” doesn’t quite flow off the tongue for me, so to speak, so “chook” it is.
Pippin was my first rooster. He’s a Light Sussex. The man who sold him to me, along with Eleanor my Light Sussex hen, told me Pippin was a hen. They were both young at the time and I’m not experienced with chooks, so I believed him. I did think when I got them home that Pippin had an unusually flowing tail for hen, but figured it was just an anomaly. The next morning I was to learn Pippin’s true gender as a soaring crow from the direction of the chook house greeted the rising sun.
Pippin grew into a handsome rooster and fathered five chicks with Eleanor. He manfully tried to do the same with my other hens – Susan, Cersei and Daenerys – however no result there. The story of Cersei and her offspring Alfred is found here.
My little flock was a peaceful community, however I’d always had a hankering to acquire a buff Orpington (image above). So when I heard there was going to be a local chook sale I thought I’d check it out.
Big mistake. Keep me away from chook sales. Literally the first chook I saw was this gorgeous cream, gold and black rooster with fluorescent green and blue-ish tail feathers. He was in a small cage next to two rather boring-looking hens. The man selling them told me the rooster was an Old English Game gold duckwing, and the hens were Old English Game silver duckwing.
I hummed and haa-ed. Told the man I already had a rooster and I didn’t want any fights. He said rather airily that the Old English Games were fast runners and could jump high. I was already formulating a way in my head that I could cordon off half the chook run – an enclosure which is quite long and higher than me – and keep the rooster and the two hens in there for a few days. I had the naive idea that the roosters could get to know each other through the barrier and would become firm friends before I released the new ones… so the deal was done.
I made that chook run like Fort Knox…except for a small gap at the top because I ran out of wire. I confidently concluded no chook could escape though that gap.
I was wrong. Later that day I heard Loopy Lucy (above) going off her brain at some commotion near the chook house. I looked out of the kitchen window…and saw Pippin and my new rooster (who I promptly christened McQueen as a result of his great escape from the chook run) going hell for leather at each other with focussed intensity, intent on destroying each other. It was horrifyingly enthralling, as anyone who has seen a cock fight would attest.
I had to stop watching after a few minutes. There wasn’t a great deal I could do except hope there wouldn’t be a death and that McQueen – who was smaller than Pippin and therefore presumably at a disadvantage – remained true to his reputation and jumped or ran to safety.
At around dusk I realised Loopy had been quiet for a while so I dared to look outside again. I saw no roosters fighting, however in the fading light I saw an odd white blob on the grass in the paddock.
I raced outside…to find Pippin lying there. At first I thought he was dead, then when I gently pushed his body, he moved, and I could see he was breathing.
I stopped at several panic stations before I collected myself and grabbed an old towel from the shed. As I ran around like the veritable chook without its head, I saw McQueen perched majestically on top of the chook house, unharmed, seemingly master of all he surveyed.
I wrapped Pippin in the towel and placed him on a shelf in the carport, near some water and food in case he came around. I didn’t hold out much hope although when I picked him up he didn’t seem to be greatly injured – there was blood crusted around his head but not a lot.
Early the next morning on waking, I headed around to the carport….just as I did, I heard an almighty crow. The shelf on which Pippin had been lying came into sight, and there, bathed in the early gold light of the morning sun, stood Pippin, who promptly lifted his head, blew out his chest – and let out another bellow.
He was answered in the distance by a rather pathetic squawk from McQueen.
McQueen and Pippin have since brokered a somewhat uneasy peace deal. They basically just keep away from each other. They both have their own flocks – Pippin and his Eleanor, Cersei and Daenerys (Susan has since passed away as related here) and McQueen and LaverneandShirley. I can’t tell the Old English Game hens apart so they share a name. McQueen has proven himself to be quite fertile – at last count, he has fathered 12 chicks between LaverneandShirley. When Pippin and McQueen do happen to encounter each other, Pippin will pull himself up to his tallest, flap his wings and make as if to charge, and McQueen scarpers. It’s all in the attitude of course but I somehow think Pippin has had the last laugh.