I met Ralph two years ago. I didn’t pay much attention to him when my friends pointed him out to me. I could’ve cared less. A year later, these same friends asked me if I wanted to adopt Ralph. Winter was coming, and they didn’t want to feed and care for him through the cold season. Nate and I jumped at the chance to be foster parents to Ralph the Rooster and his brood of six hens.
We had just finished building a green house, and since we wouldn’t be using it until Spring, we decided to house the chickens there through winter. Over the next few months of ice, snow, and freezing temperatures, I cared for these chickens lovingly. I gave them lots of chicken scratch and special mixtures of food scraps, oatmeal, and wheat berries. From time to time, I even baked them some fresh fish. I spoiled them.
In March, as the days got longer, we were excited the hens started laying eggs. It’s been a real treat not to have to buy eggs at the store. The hens are laying about 6 eggs a day, which means we have achieved our goal of being self-sufficient… at least where eggs are concerned! It has been pretty easy to care for them, and we are delighted with the eggs. I wish this was the end of the story.
One morning, I entered the chicken house carrying their food, just like any other day. I bent down to put the pan of scraps on the ground, and Ralph the Rooster reached over and pecked me in the hand. Ouch! He must have been trying to get to the food and my hand was in the way. Surely, he mistakenly pecked my hand?
The next day, I noticed Ralph eyeing me as I bent over to put the food pan on the ground again. He lunged at my hand again, but this time, I got away unscathed. On subsequent mornings, I tried to distract Ralph by scattering scratch away from me, thinking he would go in the direction of the food and leave me alone. But, he would pretend to peck at the scratch, and as soon as I reached down, he would coming running over and try to peck my hand. I started carrying a long stick when I went to feed the chickens. This way, I could gently deflect Ralph from me. This seemed to work, temporarily.
A few weeks later, I entered the chicken house to gather eggs, and Ralph hurried over to me and pecked hard at my leg. Ouch! This time, he drew blood. Now, Ralph takes to running towards me everytime he sees me. Sometimes, he lunges at me just to intimidate me. Other times, he is in full-blown attack mode ready to peck at my legs or anything else he can reach. I don’t understand why a chicken would literally bite the hand that feeds him, but it seems chickens aren’t that smart. I guess that’s why we use the term ‘bird brain’ to refer to someone who doesn’t act very smart.
I am now afraid of Ralph. I went to the library and googled, “How to deal with an aggressive rooster”, and I learned there is nothing much you can do, except eat him for dinner. I had a few more run-ins with Ralph where I tried to show him who was boss, but this only seemed to make him more aggressive with me. I was convinced it was time to eat Ralph for dinner.
Nate said there was no way we were going to kill the rooster. The bird police might hear about it and we could be in trouble again. Seriously though, we needed him to fertilize some of the eggs so we could hatch some baby chicks and expand our flock. He said I was just going to have to figure out how to deal with Ralph. I was reluctant to feed the chickens, so Nate offered to help until I could get over my fears. He, too, got pecked by Ralph several times before he learned to simply pick him up and hold him under his arm while he tended to things in the chicken house. Nate told me I should learn to do the same thing, but it’s counter-intuitive to me to try and pick up a rooster that is lunging at you, beak poised to peck! I keep imagining Ralph pecking my eye out, which is not such a far-fetched thing. The article I read on google said to keep little kids away from an aggressive rooster because he could peck their eyes out! Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds? It makes me afraid of Ralph the same way the movie Jaws keeps me out of the deep end of the ocean.
As soon as the spring weather arrived, the chickens were all over our property. We leave their house door open during the day, and they free-range everywhere. I have to be cognizant of where they are at all times, so I don’t walk around a corner, surprise Ralph and become eyeless.
Spring also means we now need the greenhouse, so we are busy building the chickens their own coop, complete with a fenced area where they can range, and a secret trap door where I can gather eggs without having a run-in with Ralph.
Our friend’s teenage son came to stay for the weekend, and I told him all about my adventures with Ralph. He got a good laugh at me being afraid of a rooster. He tried to help by offering to gather the eggs for me that day. When he brought me the eggs, and he had a stunned look on his face. He asked me for some peroxide and a bandaid, and he showed me his bloody leg where Ralph had pecked him.
Surely, now Nate would agree it’s time to eat Ralph. But, Nate only laughed and he still insists all we need to do to deflect Ralph’s aggression is to pick him up.
I’m never picking up that rooster, unless I’m putting him in the oven!
I understand the rooster is just being protective of his hens. I guess that’s a good thing. Maybe Ralph is practicing for the formidable foes he knows are coming this summer. Last year, the coop door was pawed on by several bears. They also almost met their demise when a weasel got into their house. (Luckily, Ralph kept the weasel at bay long enough for our neighbor to get the weasel with his gun.) We see eagles and hawks constantly looking for an opportunity for an easy meal. I hope Ralph’s aggression will keep his brood alive. Imagine if Crazy Old Ralph saved his hens by pecking out a bear’s eyes. Nate would get a kick out of a blind bear roaming the mountain behind our house.
I hope to win the battle with Ralph. If it’s a peaceful resolution, I’m sure I will be invited to give a Ted Talk on taming aggressive roosters. If it ends violently, I will get my fryer ready. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!