I woke up this morning to a griping chicken. You learn to tell the different emotions chickens are feeling by the sound of their noises, I suppose, just like a baby. And unlike the freaked out HAWK! alert from Nugget or the contented clucking I usually hear, this morning’s scolding was more .
My chickens were hungry and a little pissed off I hadn’t opened the coop when clearly it was light out already.
I suppose if you go to bed at dusk and dusk comes at around 6:30, you pretty much wanna get up at sunrise and not when your lazy owner happens to wrestle herself out of bed at, say, the ridiculously late hour of 8.
Of course I said all that to myself this morning. And then the day revealed itself.
Marc came over at about 11 and from that point on we were pretty hard at work clearing off half the backyard garden. It was weird, clearing five years of garden, five years of collected garden stuff, five years of plant tags that got left behind and bits of bamboo that had been broken off. It is a dismantling of a lot of hopes, dreams, failures and triumphs.
As we worked, the chickens scratched and pecked around us. The newly turned earth revealed a treasure of worms in my rich, healthy soil. First, it was just Chicken 1 and 2, but soon Pot Pie ventured close in and Kung Pao began to inch ever closer to us, to the enticing dinner possibilities of freshly turned earth. Nugget, for what it is worth, alternated between keeping level distance and scurrying away when the wind blew or a shovel hit a rock with a sharp ting. It was a gloriously sunny day.
I began to notice that Kung Pao had developed the most fascinating coloring on her feathers. Iridescent blues and greens shimmered in the sunlight on feathers that seemed more luxuriously long than, say, her twin, Pot Pie. Tail feathers arched behind her, their unfettered movement lending a gracefulness to gawky, halting chicken walk. One couldn’t help but look at what seemed to be a transformation from a certain awkwardness just a few days ago.
“Kung Pao is such a butch,” I mentioned to Marc. And the seed was planted.
Sexing chickens is an art, they say, usually done when the chicks are all little balls of indiscriminate fluff. Something about having internal knowledge of a chicken. Whatever. But my hens, when I got them, were older, for sure. They were definitely chicken, not fluff balls, and presumably had already started laying. Surely, the farmer I got them from, with chickens running and roosting all over their property, would know a hen from a rooster at the point where the former is laying.
Kung Pao, it seemed, continue to transform throughout the day. Her waddle seemed to grow more pronounced. Her gate seemed more in your face. And just before dusk, she began an obnoxiously loud cafaw-like, dare I say, crowing.
Me, I first thought someone had laid an egg. And yet, it continued a bit more than it normally would. So, I rushed across the yard to see if the Hawk was back. It wasn’t, and the cafaw continued. I shushed her, I tossed a wood chip her way to hopefully startle her. It sorta seemed like she was calling the other chickens into the hen house. I half thought she wasn’t that butch at all. The other half of that thought was that Kung Pao was in fact a rooster.
Oddly, I then rushed inside to look at my rooster and hen statues picked up at a yard sale this summer. Why I bought them isn’t the point, what more seems the point is why I thought a couple of $1.00 hillbilly farm animal statues were going to provide me with some sort of logical anatomical lesson. They seemed, when considered closely, eerily similar. The real indicator of hen-ness was the fact that one of the chickens was pecking for a little food. The rooster, on the other hand, seemed far more interested in looking regal than eating.
I did pause at the fact that I was gleaning all this from a couple of porcelain chicken figurine.
I turned to Skynet, er, Google, and typed in “how to tell a rooster from a chicken,” feeling a little stupid because it seemed something I should have learned in grade school. The list of distinguishing features sorta ran along the lines of what I had thought. And yet, it still didn’t explain the fact that Kung Pao was decidedly a chicken not too long ago. A day, maybe two, tops. And yet it was dawning on me that she seemed larger now than earlier, or that she seemed, well, I dunno. More roostery.
Until I saw this:
One Final Note
Experts can determine the difference in chicks from an early age. For the rest of us, we’re going to have to wait until a chicken grows up a bit.
And I realized. There’s a rooster in the hen house.