Archived Opinion

Rooster 1, Farmer 1 – a first-round draw

There are two puncture wounds decorating my left leg, courtesy of a rooster who has taken an inexplicable but pronounced dislike of me.

This rooster is a white leghorn. He has a twin, another white leghorn rooster, who also escaped the hatchet. Both roosters should have been sent to freezer camp a good two months ago.

I spared them because I couldn’t capture them. They’d taken to roosting 20 feet or so up in a tree, and were well out of my reach that April evening when I came to collect the others. You want to capture chickens either at dusk or before sunrise in the morning, after they have gone to roost or before they start the day’s activities.

I’ve pretended since not to notice these two very white, very large, very visible roosters strutting about the chicken yard having their way with the hens. I guess I’ve been hoping they’d be raptured up into the freezer without my divine assistance, but reality has proved disappointing — they’ve just lived on, getting bigger and bullying the hens more and more.

The rooster started our duel by getting underfoot while I was feeding the hens and the chicks. I somewhat sensed that this rooster was with me every step of the way, but didn’t pay him any attention.

While getting feed for the chicks, I inadvertently left the gate to the chicken yard open. Of course the hens wandered out. The roosters, who weren’t about to let the hens find respite from being ravished for even a moment, went out, too.

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Seeing the chickens escape, I went over, picked up an empty plastic feedbag, and used it to scoot them back into their yard. I closed the gate, and returned to feeding the chicks.

In retrospect, the rooster must have been working his nerve up all along. Being touched with a bag was the proverbial straw, however: He’d identified The Enemy.

I was carrying a refilled waterer when he attacked. I knocked him back and off with the container; then the rooster and I squared off for a showdown. My leg hurt and blood was dripping steadily, but I realized this was no time to nurse my wounds.

It looked like a possible fight to the death.

The rooster was about five feet away, dancing about like a boxer taking my measure, his beady eyes fixed on my every movement. I knew then that I had a serious contender on my hands.

I had a secret, though, that the rooster didn’t — couldn’t — know. The rooster had taken on a former, albeit mediocre, student of Shotokan karate. I’d worked my way from a white belt to the dizzying heights of a brown belt before, as is typical with my athletic endeavors, I quit.

Taking deep calming breaths, I reached back into my athletic memory, tapping those three or so years of not-very-intense martial arts training. I tried to bounce a little on the balls of my feet, just like I’d been told to do when sparring, but found it impossible to bounce lightly in rubber muck boots. Deciding that bouncing was overrated, I braced myself instead, waiting for the rooster to make the first move.

He danced, I braced; he danced, I braced.

Finally, the rooster lunged. And my moment arrived.

The killer rooster came at me, and I planted a perfect front kick on his chest, booting him back and up several feet through the air. I can only hope that the hens saw me kick the snot out of one of their great tormenters.

Temporarily cowed, the rooster backed off; I finished taking care of the chicks. By that evening’s feeding, however, he was circling me again. I was forced to feed and water carrying my shepherd’s crook, figuring in a pinch this symbol of good husbandry would serve as a rooster cudgel and I could batter him to death.

There is no end yet to this story, no fitting finale with which to neatly sum up the situation. Instead, I’m licking my wounds, left plotting against a rooster who is busy plotting against me.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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