In reading this blog, parental discretion is advised.
SamtheRooster is back.
I don't mean to suggest that Sam had run away. At this point, I'm not sure we could dislodge him from the chicken yard if we tried. No, I only mean that SamtheRooster, as we had come to know him, had disappeared.
Some history is important to this story. We only purchase female chickens — "Started Pullets" is the technical description. We have neighbors who sleep. We sleep. We aren't interested in morning crowing; and neither interested in — nor possessing the equipment to manage — hatching fertilized eggs, we were not interested in those reproductive virtues of having a rooster. Plus, roosters sort of intimidate me. They are big. They have spurs. And, from a purely economic point of view, they do not lay eggs I can sell. Hence, our determination to only purchase hens.
Generally speaking, by purchasing started pullets — most commonly 8-10 weeks of age — the gender of a bird is easier to discern. So it was that we brought home two "Mottled Java" birds of about that age. We kept them separate from the flock, as is the protocol, until the risk of importing diseases had passed and, of equal importance, the new arrivals attain a size by which they can hold their own as adjustments to the existing pecking order are made.
I'll confess my surprise when, months after accepting responsibility for them, we discerned that Samantha was, in fact, Sam. We were not happy. For all the aforementioned reasons, we did not want a rooster. We hemmed and hawed, stewed (figuratively speaking) and fretted; complained to the hatchery and wrestled with how to proceed. After all, we had months of feed and tending invested in him by this point, along with the original purchase price, and — OK, I'll admit it, we had gotten somewhat attached to them both — to the end that we resisted simply dispatching Sam or finding for him a new address. So, after considerable consultation and soul searching, and after securing Sam's signature on an agreement of good behavior, he stayed.
I'm not sure the hens have ever forgiven us. Prior to Sam's advent they had had a really nice and quiet life. Once Sam entered the picture, he was always crowing, strutting, nudging others out of the food line, chasing and ultimately mounting first one and then another. All day long. What we had created was our own little "MeToo Movement" in the chicken yard. And let me just say that chicken sex is not for the faint of heart — for those participating in it or those observing it from outside the fence. It is…rough. For their part, once the act is accomplished, the girls get up, quite literally shake it off, and go on about their search for worms. Such an impact it has had on one of the hens that for months she would exit the coop in the morning and immediately jump the fence into the free range beyond where she would spend the day beyond Sam's reach until such time at dusk that she observed Sam retreat inside the coop for the night. Only then would she jump back over the fence, eat and drink her fill, and choose a different coop in which to calmly pass the night.
Until yesterday. It's not yet exactly springtime, but the temperatures have risen, the snow has melted, the sun is shining. Hints of fertility are emerging in the grasses…and in Sam. Yesterday, the Sam of old was back. No hen was safe. In fact, I don't think anything moving was spared. From sun up to sun down, Sam mounted everything in sight.
As far as I could tell, more than once.
As for the hens, they seemed to take it all in stride — no doubt grateful for the respite, whatever had precipitated it. As for us, though in any other context we would deplore such behavior and take aggressive steps to intervene, in these recuperative, symbolic exercises we found ourselves inexplicably smiling and high-fiving. After such a season off-kilter, out of balance, paralyzed in more ways than one, all somehow seemed right with the world again. At least in the chicken yard.
Welcome back, SamtheRooster. We've missed you. Every part of you.