We feed them so they feed us

It’s October, and that means harvest time again. While some are bringing in corn or beans, my family is stocking the freezer with the succulent meat chickens we’ve been raising. And, as it seems to fall every year, whenever we try to schedule butcher day, other plans somehow manage to intrude and postpone the planned date.

It doesn’t bother me that much, since I like to raise the chickens big enough for several meals to be had from one roasted bird, but the kids get tired of taking care of near turkey-sized eating machines, so slaughter we must.

An added bonus this time around was getting rid of two particularly mean roosters. Anyone who has difficulty grasping the concept of being intimidated by a chicken would do well to envision a seven to 10-pound ball of rage, equipped with various and sundry pointy bits which it is determined to use on you at any cost.

The said wad of fury will charge at top speed (surprisingly fast for those who haven’t witnessed it) toward its target, wings outstretched, hackles puffed, and eyes gleaming malevolently. It’s a daunting sight for an adult, let alone a whippersnapper.

In the interests of furthering world peace one rooster at a time, we tend to dispatch the mean ones fairly quickly. After all, it’s not fun to have to carry a stick around for fending off vicious fowl whenever one goes outside. I must confess to a feeling of savage triumph when those two troublemakers finally kicked their last.

I was also looking forward to letting the kids go outside without fearing for their safety. They wholeheartedly shared the sentiment. When I sent them down to let out the chickens, they still went as a team (one of the few things they agree upon and cooperate), perhaps still wary of the one remaining large rooster.

I had insisted that we keep the best looking one over the winter, even though he had been known to attack before. I hoped that (a) he would keep an eye out for the hens during winter, and (b) wouldn’t get to as many shenanigans without his previous partners in crime.

So, my intrepid, stick-wielding offspring headed cautiously for the coop as I watched from the driveway. After some organizational strategy and much muttering, I saw the door swing open. I saw the first few birds flutter out of the door. And then I just about died laughing.

The kids came running toward the truck, followed by a literal torrent of birds. Closest behind were the flighty and friendly Phoe­nixes, followed closely by the Barred Rocks, careening at high speed. Slightly behind were the Australorps, Easter Eggers, and Reds, then the heavy Brahmas.

All of them were charging single mindedly for the house in search of treats. The kids were barely outpacing them, sprinting as if the hounds of Hades were nipping at their heels. It reminded me of the scene in “Jurassic Park” where the paleontologist and children were caught in a herd of Gallimimuses being pursued by a T. Rex.

Sure enough, the kids reached the relative safety of the truck while the chickens charged on past, the ground almost thundering under so many clawed and scaly feet. And right on cue, here came the T. Rex—I mean the rooster, Gregory Peck by name—bringing up the rear.

As intimidating as a charging rooster can be, there are also few things as amusing as a running rooster, especially from the back. And Gregory didn’t disappoint. Without even a glance our direction, he continued speed waddling in mad pursuit of the hens, who were now all his.

When the kiddos got their breath back, they started laughing with me at their brush with imminent doom.

The poor darlings, they could have been trampled to death by our flock, nay rampaging horde of hens. If one of them had tripped, why, they could have been covered in chicken tracks and claw marks!

If, by some miracle, they weren’t killed by the feathery flood, and simply made late for school, they would have been tardy and feathered! Oh, the horror! Each of the kids tried to top the other at envisioning grisly chicken caused demises. We laughed until our sides hurt.

And the barnyard is safe again. Gregory Peck is too busy watching his flock to be bothered with attacking us. The poor bald hens are finally growing some feathers back. And there are two mean roosters down in freezer camp who will make some wonderful soup. The mean ones taste better, you know.

Shana Thornhill lives on farm near Marion. She can be reached at shotah76@yahoo.com