The Great Rooster Catastrophe

We have a rogue chicken.

Well, two actually.

Okay, let’s be honest: all of our chickens are rogue chickens.

That’s because chickens have minds of their own: small, feathered, strong-willed, two-year-old minds of their own.

These rogue chickens are escape artists.

“How come you’re in there and we’re out here?”

We put them in the coop. They get out of the coop. We put them in the coop. They get out of the coop. We put them in okay, we’ve stopped trying to keep them in at this point. 

So they wander around the barn, hanging out with the rams and laying their eggs in the hay feeders. They linger around the chicken pen, squawk at their friends inside, wanting to be with them and wondering why they’re not.

Then at feeding time, we open the gate to their pen and they walk right in, ready for dinner. Until the next day.

We had another rogue chicken this summer who kept flying out of the hens’ movable pasture fence. A wonderful neighbor called to let us know she was out, but after we put her back inside, she was out again the next day.

*Sigh*

Where the hens are supposed to be: inside the fence.

So for this particular rebellious child, we brought her back to our home coop with taller fences and there she stayed. The kids took a special liking to this chicken, naming her Katie Ledecky after the summer Olympian for whom they had a similarly fond preference. They would talk to Katie Ledecky and let her out of her fence to take walks around the yard.

Yes, we’re THAT family.

But our taller fences weren’t tall enough for the most notorious rogue chicken on our farm: King Rogue himself.

Okay, that wasn’t actually his name. I called him Flash for the brief time this rooster stayed with us, because he showed us a gorgeous flash of green and red and white right before he flew the coop (literally). Like a flash.

Alright, enough with the flashy wordplay and on with Flash’s story already.

Some generous farm friends of ours who share our affection for heritage breeds heard of Andy’s desire to possibly start incubating and hatching his own chicks. So this man offered to donate one of his somewhat rare Icelandic roosters to Andy’s cause.

Andy was so excited.

After receiving the prized rooster from his former master, who handed him over with tears in his eyes, Andy brought him home and promptly put him into our chicken coop, like any responsible farmer will do.

What an Icelandic rooster might have looked like on our farm if the great rooster catastrophe had been averted.

One circumstance that we didn’t foresee as a problem (until after the fact) was that our laying hens were all out on pasture at the time. So when Andy put the rooster into our coop, he saw no lady friends to keep his interest. He promptly ran out the little door to the outdoor penned area, jumped up on top of the fence, and dove into the dense garden nearby for cover.

We’d never had a chicken do that before.

We barely had time to get a good look at him (and thus didn’t get a picture) before we started to worry. Chickens are very fast and very nimble. If they don’t want to be caught, they will not be caught.

The four of us looked at each other and quickly tried to come up with a plan. Did we have a fishing net we could catch him with? No, darn it all!

Andy instructed each of us where to stand, while he sent Noah into the barn to look for some kind of net or tool that might be useful. The other three of us surrounded the garden and tried to figure out where the rooster was hiding. Andy spotted him and we circled round.

Out he darted beyond our reaching fingers and made a beeline for the neighbors. Now we started to panic. Beyond the neighbors’ building was a field of corn taller than our heads. If he went into that corn, he would be gone forever.

Andy slowly followed behind Flash while I breathlessly ran around the front of the neighbor’s building to try to cut him off. And we did: when I emerged, Flash stood between Andy and me. Andy whispered instructions to not let him get past me. I nodded.

Andy dove for him … and missed. I tried to get in his way, but he dodged me sideways and made for the corn field. I was about to follow but then I noticed Andy was still on the ground, groaning and grabbing for his shoulder. I didn’t know whether to help Andy or go after the rooster.

Are you okay? I half-screamed.

Just follow him. Don’t let him get across the road.

I turned around and saw that Flash was NOT headed toward the corn field anymore. He had made a sharp right and was now headed for the road, and a mack truck was coming down the hill toward him at 55 mph.

I panicked.

Look out! I shouted, waving my arms and running toward the impending disaster, knowing in my head that this driver was definitely NOT going to stop but yelling and waving my arms in hope nevertheless.

Andy shouted for me to stop chasing, as he staggered toward me in apparent agony, so I stopped in my tracks and watched in horror at what might unfold before me.

Miraculously, the rooster stopped right at the edge of the road. The truck zoomed past.

Un-miraculously, Flash took off again across the road and toward another corn field. We helplessly watched him disappear into the corn. My shoulders slumped as I tried to catch my breath. Andy held his left shoulder and leaned to one side.

He’s gone, Andy said with a wave of his good arm.

I’m going to look for him, I said as I took off toward where I saw the rogue last.

Andy tried to talk me out of it, but I had to at least try. It was a fruitless act. He was gone.

What the corn field would have looked like if I had stopped to retrieve my phone and take a picture instead of trying to catch the rooster.

In the aftermath of the great rooster catastrophe, we learned that Andy had dislocated his shoulder when he dove for that roguish rooster. In true Andy fashion, he was pounding fence posts a few days later.

We listened to the rooster crow across the road day after day. Andy tried all sorts of tricks to try to round him up again. He stalked through the woods, sat still in hiding, and even set up a pen of hens to try to lure him in.

None of it worked. Eventually he stopped crowing, and that rooster was never seen again.

We have not yet gotten another rooster to replace him.

But we did get ourselves a fishing net.

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