Our first rooster was a turken. A turken isn’t really a cross between a turkey and a chicken—it’s all chicken. It’s just that it has a naked neck so it looks like a turkey. In other words, it’s incredibly ugly. Our first rooster was also a mistake. We had ordered a couple dozen “hardy brown egg laying mix” chicks from McMurray Hatchery that came in the mail on Easter morning. This mix included one “exotic” chick that ended up being a male turken.
At first I thought that maybe all the other chicks were pecking the feathers out of this poor little one’s neck. It looked so bare and wrinkled and vulnerable—kind of scrotal. This chick with the bare neck also had a topknot of yellow feathers that stuck straight up on top of its head—so when he pecked, he looked like a fantasy bird from a Dr. Seuss book. Soon it became pretty evident that this guy was growing bigger and stronger and bossier than all the rest.
As he matured, his feathers were a beautiful golden color with long curved tail feathers, but his damn neck was impossible to ignore. It was so scrawny and scaly…he looked like a train wreck. Hence, he was named Imus, and he developed the same sexist attitude as his namesake.
In the beginning, Imus was a pretty reasonable chap, leading and protecting his beautiful free-range flock of multi-colored girls. Reasonable, that is, until the big “Chicken Holocaust of ’99,” when he snapped and literally lost his mind. A dog from down the road, a huge brutish Chow named Tony, came into our yard when we weren’t home and killed 17 of our girls for sport. Apparently, Imus fought to save them but he was no match for Tony. Carnage and feathers were everywhere. A neighbor, Mr. O’Boyle, sadly brought a wheelbarrow full of carcasses from his lawn. We were devastated. So was Imus. I’m sure Imus felt like he had failed in his duty to protect his harem. He was never the same after that. He went batshit crazy.
I, on the other hand, was furious. I called the local animal control officer, and he read me the rules about protecting domestic livestock from predators. I called Tony’s owner and told him if his Chow was ever in our yard again—I was going to shoot him. I meant it. We never saw that dog again.
But the damage was done. Imus became a ferocious lunatic who would launch a vicious attack when he thought the hens were being threatened. Unfortunately, that included us. It became almost impossible to go into the coop to feed them. I had to approach the coop with a garbage can lid like a shield and a hockey stick to fend off Imus, who would fly at me, razor-sharp spurs first. It became a nightmare chore to deal with him.
The deciding event was when Imus attacked a little boy who was visiting my birth center. That was just too much. Short of sending Imus to a chicken therapist and putting him on Prozac, I had no idea what to do with him. So I decided to foist him off on my good friend Kendall. Why she agreed to take him in, I’ll never know, but she did. I put on leather fireplace gloves and threw a towel over Imus when he was sleeping, and drove him to Kendall’s in the middle of the night.
Kendall’s coop was a funky structure that had a metal roof under a high window. Somehow, Imus discovered how to escape out the window every morning and slide down the metal roof to the yard below. It was a pretty amazing sight to see this big, awkward bird sliding on his back with his feet sticking straight out in front of him, his bare neck arched forward, the whole way down to freedom.
Imus was lucky. He got to spend several more years in this world as a solitary bird until one day he never returned from roaming.
What I learned from Imus is that roosters take their role as flock champion very, very seriously.
Coming on Monday!
ARMAND THE GOOD ~ Roosters I Have Known and Loved #2