Backyard Farm Stories
Rooster Snooze Alarm
Randy Rooster is LOUD. He developed his mighty, basso-profondo cockadoodle-doo last fall and from then on his presence in my backyard was no longer a secret.
Now, according to the law, Randy is an illegal alien and I am a criminal for giving him sanctuary. At any moment, the Chicken Police could show up at my door, slap me with a big fine and deport poor Randy to parts unknown.
Given the risks I am taking, I know that I should simply turn him into soup and move on, especially considering that he’s extremely high maintenance and has a personality reminiscent of Atilla the Hun. (He’s tried to kill me. He attacks my friends. And his idea of romance is to grab the nearest hen by the neck and have his way with her).
But he’s gorgeous and I love him.
So I make accommodations. But with Randy -- as with all abusive relationships -- it’s just one crisis after another. First I had to learn how to become an Extreme Rooster so he’d stop trying to kill me. At some point I will need to address his atrocious behavior with the hens. (Seriously, they should bring him up on sexual abuse charges). But the most pressing issue at the moment is his god-awful noise. You see, during the cold, dark days of winter when everyone sleeps behind closed windows, no one knew that Randy goes off in the middle of the night. (Who knew that roosters get up before the sun does?) But when March hit us with a series of freaky eighty-degree days and I opened my bedroom window I discovered exactly what Randy’d been up to.
One minute I was sleeping peacefully, dreaming sweet dreams and the next….
Randy yelled at the ungodly, pitch-black hour of four.
Trust me, this was not a gentle way to wake up and he didn’t just leave it at that. No, his “GET UP, IT’S MORNING!!!!!” racket went on for a good five minutes more. Then he finally shut up and went back to sleep. I did the same though it took me a lot longer.
he yelled again.
At five... at six... and at seven.
Like some diabolical, demented Rooster Snooze Alarm.
Clearly, this was not going to fly with the neighbors.
So I went in search of solutions and the first one I found seemed like a winner. You see, I grew up with a parakeet named Buttons who was part of the family and free-range, just like the chickens. He spent his life flying through the house, pooping everywhere, chewing the woodwork and romancing the hot ‘keet-chick that lived in the shiny, chrome-plated toaster. My father, who loved all creatures great and small, indulged him. He insisted that Buttons share our meals and dipped his morning toast in coffee to make it soggy because that’s how the little bird liked it. Dad also let him sip wine from his glass at dinner. Consequently, Buttons developed a bit of an alcohol problem but it caused him no harm. Except for that time when he got a little disoriented and belly-flopped into a bowl of tomato soup which turned him into an orange and green bird for a few weeks. But that’s a whole other story…..
At any rate, Buttons would go back into his cage at night, we’d close the door and cover the cage so he wouldn’t wake us up early in the morning with his chirping. Certainly encasing a coop would be more of a challenge than throwing a towel over a birdcage, but I was up to the task. I found a really big tarp in the attic and after much work and a little swearing, I got the job done.
That night, I went to sleep thinking: “Problem solved!” Until…
Randy Rooster yelled at four in the morning. My first angry thought was: “How in God’s name does that dang bird know what time it is???”
Well, he did. And he kept to his schedule:
at five... at six... and seven.
I unwrapped the coop and put the tarp back up in the attic.
I was at a loss and depressed. Crock-pot Randy was starting to look like the only viable option. However March conveniently turned back into winter and everyone shut their windows again so I had a little more time to come up with a solution.
A few days later I happened to be pondering my spring To Do List and when I got to “Turn winter emergency shelter for chickens back into a garage” the words nearly leapt off the page and hit me upside the head. OF COURSE! RANDY CAN SLEEP IN THE GARAGE! It’s built of cinder block and brick and he can crow from now until the cows come home and no one will hear him!
Or maybe not. My euphoria evaporated like mist in the wind. How in the world would I get him in there??? He’d never go in of his own accord without his girls and man-handling a fully weaponized rooster is the stuff of nightmares: Shredded flesh. Mangled hands. Rivers of blood. Trips to Emergency…
But wait! I suddenly remembered that chickens sleep like the dead. Could I nab Randy after dark without serious injury? I had no idea but I had to try.
That night I shined a flashlight into the little coop window and located Randy against the back wall. With trepidation, I reached in and grabbed the bird I thought was Randy. It was one of the hens. I tried again and out came another hen. And then another. After the fourth hen, I realized that this was not a viable plan. Chickens may sleep like the dead but they were all awake now.
I gave it up and went to bed.
The next morning I analyzed my failure and concluded that I cannot simply reach into a coop that has ten chickens in it and hope to find the right one. I must be able to identify Randy. And just like that, I had the answer! Hens and roosters are not the same. I’ve only to learn Chicken Braille and use my fingers and not my eyes!
That night, I tried again. I put my hands in the coop and slowly started feeling my way through the flock. The chickens did some mumbling but seemed not to mind my impolite probing and, after my fifth hen, I found the prize: Randy’s glorious tail. I gently lifted him out of the coop and – wonder of wonders – he did not tear me to pieces. In fact, he just relaxed in my arms.
I carried him into the garage, turned on the night-light and set him down on the grass hay. He looked around, took a few steps. Then he flew up onto the roost bar and hunkered down to sleep as though this were something he did every night. I said good night, turned off the light and went off to bed.
Easy as that.
Now Randy sleeps in the garage every night. Sure, it adds an extra job to my daily schedule but there is a wonderful bonus: Once a day I get to hug my big, beautiful, terrifying rooster.
Sweet, cuddly Randy