I've got this thing with roosters. It goes back to my childhood, growing up on a farm.
There was the rooster Friendly, who did not live up to his name. I distinctly remember being "treed" in the Lilac, scrambling up the thin branches to escape his sharp beak that pecked at my bare shins and ankles. Friendly wasn't so friendly and he tortured me.
On days when it was my turn to feed the sheep, I'd have to map out his location from inside the house. When I determined that he was nowhere near, I'd race up the path to the barn, where I was safe from his head down, wings spread, waddling attacks.
Then there was Ronald Reagan. He was quite protective of his wife, Nancy. I remember that he was nasty, just like Friendly, but unfortunately he chose to be nasty to the wrong man–my father.
I remember walking across the yard one Sunday morning, when Ronald Reagan decided to launch an attack on my father's legs. I recall that a cup of hot coffee was thrown in his direction, and I recall that Ronald Reagan was mysteriously missing from the farm when we returned from church that afternoon.
So when our six Rhode Island hens revealed themselves to be five hens plus one rooster, my childhood memories forced a tightness in my stomach.
Would I once again be plagued by a nasty rooster?
Would he torture my own children sending them hysterically scrambling for the Walnut Tree?
The girls have named him Hedgie and he's oddly become the tamest of the brood. But I worry that this domestication could eventually become our (or his) downfall. When I swing open the coop door each morning, he's standing there, in the doorway, waiting. The coop sits up off the ground and when he stands in the doorway he's almost eye level. I find it intimidating.
When my arms are reaching deep into the feed bag to bring out a scoop of grain, he stands quite close to me, his beak practically brushing against my legs, his head tilted to look up at me.
When I walk away from the coop, over the small wooden bridge and back to the yard, I often sense him in a scurrying waddle, racing to catch up to me. I turn and there he is on my heels. I tell myself he's just wondering what good things I have for him. And that he's such a sweet rooster. A sweet, sweet rooster.
But I still worry.
So far, Hedgie's been a gentleman. Perhaps, a slightly cocky gentleman. (no pun intended) He finds the guineas more entertaining than the hens and stays close to them. Sometimes he invades my space, my comfort zone and I give him a little nudge with my leg, just to let him know who's boss. Sometimes he puffs up his chest and moves in a little closer. And sometimes, he turns and walks away, completely disinterested.
And I haven't told the girls my rooster tales from childhood. I think it's better that way. So that they're looking for the good in Hedgie, not the bad.
Meanwhile, I'll scout out the best trees for escape-climbing and think about investing in some ping-pong-ball-shooting guns for the girls to wear in their waistbands. To ward off the chicken hawks and potentially grumpy roosters, of course.
**I realize all these pictures are of the hens, except for the first. Hedgie's always the first out the door. He doesn't stick around for photoshoots.**