Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The Great Rooster Roundup
It began snowing around 2pm yesterday, not that unusual for the Northwest. I gave it no mind as I worked, thinking it would pass with less than an inch. We Minnesotans tend to be casual with Oregon snowstorms, a rather annoying trait to natives, I'm sure.
Around 3:30, it was still snowing heavily, a wet, heavy snow. Yes, yes, pretty and all. But with pregnant sheep in a field, it adds one more chore to the nightly routine. When I went to the barn, there were hens everywhere. They had obviously been out free ranging when the snow came, and heaven forbid, chose not to waddle back to the coop in snow. If you've ever seen a chicken in wet, sticky snow, you'll understand they made the right decision. They often just stop, and get stuck. But rather than all congregating in one area, there were some in the hay area, some in the old barn and some were hunkered in with the old goats.
After getting the barn animals settled and fed, it was close to 4pm. I knew I could catch my younger hens three at a time. Most simply squat down when I approach, and I scoop them up in threes. A handy technique, let me tell you. But the older hens - Vivienne, Chicken Named Dog, Henny Jenny, Henny Penny, and Henny Henny are much more rascally. I scooped up my young hens in 3 trips and carried them into their coop, warm with the heat lamp on. Some tucked their heads into my coat to avoid contact of snowflakes in their eyes.
"I guess you won't be making snow angels with me then?" I asked the Three Janes.
"Very funny, " they said.
At this stage of the evening, all was light and fun. A nice snow with warm weather predicted a day later is a nice break from mud. However, the evening was about to take a turn to the dark side.
I managed to get all the older hens caught except Chicken Named Dog. I knew she'd be a pain. But I finally trapped her with the aid of Guinnias the old goat. He managed to stand still long enough to block her so I could grab her. Way to go, Old Man!
And now their was Papa Roo, a chicken I'd never held. Or even caught, as there had never been a need too. Besides, he knew perfectly well my rooster love was totally devoted to the late Ward and Lyndon Baines. He was a real rooster, one that did not get all gooey with the chicken herder. I really thought he'd just waddle to the hens, snow or no snow, if I just forced him out of the barn. It was only about 100 feet to the coop.
So I got him to the doorway.
"What, no shoveled path for me? Nope, ain't going, not me, no way, no how." and he fled back to the hay bales.
"Alright, alright, I realize you're barefoot, so I shall shovel you a path, Papa Roo. " And I did.
Upon examining 5 inches into the neatly shoveled path, he explained, "But there's still way too much snow on the path. This won't do. Nope, still not going out there."
And he fled again.
I don't believe I'd begun swearing yet. There was plenty of time for that to come.
I got an old sheet draped on a hay bale, and tried to catch him by throwing it over him. Nope, he won that contest too. I did my 'woman-crouching-arms out- to-catch- chicken' technique [really good for developing thigh and buttocks, ladies] but he beat at those attempts fair and square.
It was now time for Rooster Round-Up Technique 15, to be used only at dusk, when you are really tired of rooster hunting and just want to go inside and continue your human life, with wine.
I ran around after that damn rooster all over, insisting in no uncertain terms, "Leave this barn at once!!"
Oh he left alright, but when he hit that snow outside he went into a panic and retreated to the other older barn. Well, at least he was now 20 feet to the coop. Surely he'll go inside, I thought, and since he's sitting near his coop, he can hear his ladies cooing for him. But I guess the thought of 20 feet of snow was so overwhelming that that darn rooster decided he had no recourse but to go upwards.
"If I stay here, " he must have thought, "that lunatic will get me. If I try to walk in the snow, it's sure to kill me. The roof is my only option."
So there he was, 30 feet up, on a slippery metal barn roof. I calculated how many minutes it would take for me to fall once I got on the roof. Fortunately, right then, Martyn came home.
That's when we started throwing snowballs. As I stood at the next to the top rung of my ladder perch, I was a dictionary picture of an accident waiting to happen. Even though the snowballs were flying, and many hit that darn rooster, he stood his ground.
At this point, it was really getting dark. I had visions of him getting so stuck in the wet snow, that I'd find him there frozen the next day, like a vintage rooster weather vane. I realized we needed to retreat. After all, the idea of approaching to maniacs with snowballs probably was not an option a rooster instinctively would pick. I knew if he came down, and landed somewhere, I could snatch him in the dark, since chickens go comatose in the dark and you can pick them right up.
Martyn left me to my madness, saying, "I'll go inside, he only listens to you anyway." Um, yea, right.
Finally, he started to inch around his roof perch, examining his options. And with one loud rooster squawking, Papa Roo finally came flying down to land in his best National Geographic rooster-looking-like eagle imitation ever.
"Great!" I thought, "We're home free now."
Oh, so naive we humans can be.
Papa Roo had once again fled back to the hay barn, and was wet and unsettled. I considered leaving him in the barn, but knew the temps were dropping. And with a bobcat sighting, I never would have forgiven myself had he died in the night.
So, I waited for the real dark to come, and within about 15 minutes, with the barn light off, I began more rooster snatching techniques. Since he refused to really land anywhere- why would he with a nut like me running around- I had to try the often used "Just go for it" technique - you know that one, you throw your entire body towards the rooster. Unfortunately I fell twice on hand and hips.
Now I was really getting mad.
This is the part of the story I'll edit. I'm never proud of myself when I lose my temper around the animals, and there were pregnant mothers in my presence. There's really nothing sadder than a grown 51 year old woman swearing at a rooster. And I used all my favorite terms in colorful combinations.
Well, finally, Papa Roo landed on a gate, and due to the darkness, I was able to grab him from behind. You would have thought I was killing him from his screams, which of course is exactly how he felt, poor fellow. Once I caught him, I returned to my loving Apifera goddess personality I attempt to embody each day, and I consoled him as we walked back tot he coop.
"I'm really so sorry, Roo. It was for your own good. I apologize for calling you an ass, really, I do. Please forgive all the feathers I ripped out of you too, I'll use them for something special, I promise."
I put him in the coop, and the ladies did their greetings. Papa Roo strutted in there like the man he was,
"Ladies, I've just been checking out the snow, making sure it's safe for all of us, everything is under control, no worries."
Men...can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.