First, Catch Your Rooster
September 13, 2009 10:57 PM   Subscribe

“Oh my!” Elise had turned over their rooster and noticed its spurs. I just about had a heart attack — the spurs were nearly three inches long, curved and very, very sharp. But for the Grace of God that rooster could easily have sent me to the hospital. I was feeling a lot better about leaving that last bird, and was beginning to understand why Dominic and Rosa never killed their own chickens.
posted by jason's_planet (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Mmmmm. That read like erotic fiction for me.

I have a neighbor (I'm in a relatively new housing development, she's in the older house adjacent) who has a pet rooster. When we first moved into our house four years ago, right around this time of year*, we thought the cock-a-doodle-doo in the 5- or 6-o'clock hour was kinda quaint and only rarely bothersome.

Then we had our first child, and realized that when the crowing came from immediately on the other side of our back yard fence in the early morning, it could (and a couple of times did) wake up the baby. I walked over and introduced myself and described our situation. She (and her adult son living with her) were fairly nice about it, telling me the animal had been in their family for 15 years and was like a pet, and was hard to catch and keep penned, but that they'd do their best to keep him on the side of their property farthest from our house.

The first thing I did when I got home was Google "rooster lifespan," and I was encouraged to see that it was something like 15 years on the upper end. I've fantasized quite a bit about dispatching the beast, but I've gotten used to him. That was 4 years ago, and he's still going strong (albeit not bothering us or the kids at indecent hours).

*Almost to the day; we got the keys on the second day of Rosh Hashana in 2005**.
**"Why, yes, that was pretty much the height of the housing bubble, why do you ask?" he said while deep underwater.

posted by yiftach at 11:23 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

But for the Grace of God that rooster could easily have sent me to the hospital.

Oh, give me a break. Dude's acting like he's the bravest of the brave for slaughtering a freaking rooster. It's not exactly a fucking life or death situation.

Uh, except for the rooster I mean.

(r.i.p. Fluffy Toes)
posted by dersins at 11:34 PM on September 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Awww, if I ever had a chance to eat rooster, I'd definitely make coq au vin. And the older, the better...
posted by mek at 12:14 AM on September 14, 2009

When I was a kid, a neighbor in the fairly rural area I was living in kept chickens. One of her flock was a little banty rooster who constantly managed to escape the pen, and he'd love to chase me when I'd walk past on my way home from school. He'd run up and start jumping and poking my ankles with his little spurs, an inch or two long. This was, you know, slightly painful, getting poked with a sharp thing, but it wasn't enough to even break the skin through my jeans. I suppose it might barely have drawn blood if it was on skin.

I don't know if this person had a different kind of chickens, but the thought of roosters being actively dangerous is a little silly, in my limited experience. Even if my galline adversary had been twice the size (which would be bigger than any rooster I've seen), I wouldn't have been scared of him.
posted by Malor at 1:22 AM on September 14, 2009

My mother doesn't normally lose her temper and when she does, it's usually in a fairly quiet, prim sort of way. But one day in the chicken pen the young game cockerel she hadn't managed to give away yet had savaged her precious pet rooster and - when she'd waded in to save him - the beast attacked her and gave her two nasty holes in her leg.

Well. Covered in blood and feathers, and screaming like a particularly foul-mouthed banshee, she grabbed the little bastard and came out of the pen like a human tornado - through the garage, grabbing the wood axe as she went, out into the back yard near the wood pile and CHOP. The screaming and the squawking stopped at about the same time as I recall.

There are two morals to this story. Be careful of roosters with spurs. And it's the quiet women who won't say "boo" that you have to watch.
posted by ninazer0 at 2:25 AM on September 14, 2009 [9 favorites]

I've been spurred by a rooster before. Hurt like hell, and left a good sized hole in my leg. Still have a little round scar there, actually - you don't want a puncture wound from a pint-sized velociraptor.

It was kind of my fault though. I was chasing it at the time, trying to get it back in the pen, and the rooster decided it had had enough of that, turned about face and went on the offensive. Ouch.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:46 AM on September 14, 2009

Oh, give me a break. Dude's acting like he's the bravest of the brave for slaughtering a freaking rooster. It's not exactly a fucking life or death situation.

My father was seriously into cockfighting for several years. He'd always had a thing for birds (over the decades he's kept doves, pigeons, even a falcon at one point), and he learned the sport from a friend while he was in the Army. When I was a child he was known in the region for breeding Halseys (like this one) with great stamina for surviving in the pit. We used to have men come from all over the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys to purchase pullets and young cocks from him.

My father still has scars in his arms from training aggressive roosters. If any of the roosters got agitated and started going at each other, Daddy would make us kids go into the house and stay until he got them separated and calmed down. I have seen Daddy's roosters attack, injure, and drive away multiple dogs at the same time, hungry strays drawn by the clucking who thought they might get themselves a quick snack. There we'd be, sitting in the living room minding our own business, when all of a sudden caw-CAW!-yip! yip! yip!-yip!-yip! and three, four mangy hounds bigger than my bicycle would round the corner of the house and head down the gravel driveway at high speed, chased by a furious cloud of talons, beaks, and beating wings. I have seen them KILL a chicken hawk. And I've heard other cockfighters talk about trips to the emergency room from a tournament, because someone wasn't careful handling a rooster and damn near lost an eye to a beak, or had their faces opened up by the wings beating--"It's just like what they say about dying by a bunch of paper cuts", one man told me, "just like a million paper cuts hittin' your face all at once."

To this day I have never understood why cowards are commonly called "chicken". Anyone who uses the term has never been around gamefowl. me on this. A rooster not broke to the farmyard can and will send you to the hospital if cornered. Their talons can open a vein, if the rooster gets you right. Three-inch spurs? That rooster may as well have been armed with a fucking switchblade. If it had been younger and more aggressive, the writer could very well have ended up in the hospital.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:59 AM on September 14, 2009 [14 favorites]

or had their faces opened up by the wings beating

Wing beatings by geese are worse. Yet Zaphod Beeblebrox would calm right down after you'd step over him and wrap 'round the wings/body.

And you had to do that - otherwise you'd be ankle bit if you took your eyes off of him.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:25 AM on September 14, 2009

magstheaxe, by the tone of your comment, you sound morally neutral or perhaps even nostalgic on the subject of cockfighting. What's your take on it?
posted by bicyclefish at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2009

I had a pet hen, Laverne, who decided to grow spurs when she was about 5 years old. They were almost this long but not very sharp, and luckily she was a nice-tempered bird who never tried to use them on me. They just made her walk funny. (I'm positive she was a hen - I've seen an egg come out of her butt.)

Another hen, Shirley, was a foul-tempered beast who thought she was a rooster - she was noisy and attacked feet-first as if she had spurs. It was kind of funny until she realized her mistake and landed a solid peck with her beak. Ow!

Here in San Francisco, even the chickens are cross-dressing gender-bending weirdos. Must be something in the water.
posted by Quietgal at 9:08 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

magstheaxe, by the tone of your comment, you sound morally neutral or perhaps even nostalgic on the subject of cockfighting. What's your take on it?

Well, I was trying not to sound too judgmental, simply because I don't know what people on Metafilter think of the subject. But here's my take on it:

I grew up in near-poverty. My dad's interest in chickens and cockfighting wasn't just a hobby. We saved money with raising our own chickens and eggs, and Daddy made money to cover bills (such as the big medical expenses related to my infant little brother's surgeries) by being one of the best cockfighters in the state. And while I'm the first person to tell you how dangerous gamefowl can be, I'll also tell you that they can be fun and wonderful pets. My first pet was my dad's prize rooster, in fact, the Muhammad Ali of his stable. Went undefeated his entire life. Uh-uh-uh-uh (I can't transcribe it. I named him when I was still struggling to talk; it's a toddler's attempt to recreate the rooster's crow) used to sit on my lap and share my peanut butter sandwich and watch cartoons. Uh-uh-uh-uh also seemed to have a need to protect me from other critters--I think he may have deduced that I was chick belonging to my dad, or something.

It was always fun, too, on the weekends to see all these white men show up in the backyard, cans of beer in their hands, looking at Daddy's roosters and treating Daddy with such respect, like he was an Einstein of cockfighter breeding. Which, I guess, he was.

However, I was also a kid. I'd see the roosters start to go at each other in the yard, and then I'd get shooed into the house so that Daddy could throw some water on them, so I never really saw them go at it at each other. I'd see them beat up dogs and cats and chicken hawks and think, "Good!" because why shouldn't the roosters protect themselves and their hens from being eaten by animals? I never went to the fights--I was too small, and there was already talk of cockfighting being made illegal in the state, so Daddy wouldn't take me.

I didn't have a clue as to what actually happened in the pit. I literally thought a real cockfight was like Foghorn Leghorn putting on boxing gloves--and in fairness Daddy did have these little muffler things that went over the spurs, I guess for reasons of handling the roosters or for transport, and I thought they were tiny boxing gloves.

When I found out what it was like for real, when I saw videos, I was sick. And then I cried. Because all I could think about was how he'd put Uh-uh-uh-uh through that.

But then I also think about Daddy coming home one day in the '70s, when there was a strike at the factory and no one was getting paid, with nearly a thousand dollars in winnings that Uh-uh-uh-uh won for him. I remember Mom being so happy because it meant we could pay off all those bills and still have plenty money to take Baby Brother back to the doctor.

I hate it that those chickens died (and still die, cockfight is still popular worldwide), and in such terrible pain. Being slaughtered for cooking was faster and less painful than dying in the pit.

I told Daddy that if I'd known that's what Uh-uh-uh-uh faced every time they went to a tournament, I wouldn't've let him take my rooster. He was quiet for a minute, then said, "Well, honey, that's just how the game is played. "

And then he said, "Beside, your brother's still here."

So...I dunno. Animals shouldn't suffer needlessly. Cockfighting is enormously cruel. And yet my brother is still here.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2009 [35 favorites]

And it's the quiet women who won't say "boo" that you have to watch.

A woman who whistles
Or a hen that crows
Has her way
Wherever she goes.
posted by squalor at 11:45 AM on September 14, 2009

I grew up with chickens. We had a bantam rooster that escaped its pen. It pecked through heavy denim jeans to get at my knee, then later through similar jeans to get at my father's knee. The feathery bastard kept a massive hybrid wolf/golden retriever mix cowed for much of the time it lived after its escape. We managed to catch it through a Rube Goldberg type trap with a nylon feed sack. We give it to a friend who had chickens. She was used to being chased by the beaked menaces, but when she saw how aggressive this one was, she immediately broke its neck and used it for soup.

Chickens are not to be taken lightly. They're not cute. They're not gentle. I wish chickens upon PETA members who protest the birds' mistreatment. They're friggin monsters, and we wouldn't allow them to live if they weren't so delicious when fried.
posted by crataegus at 2:25 PM on September 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

A few years ago some friends asked me to look after their place (hobby farm) for a few days while they were away. The most important thing was that the AI (artificial insemination) man was helped to the relevant cows. Which didn't work out, when the time came, because there was a wooden gate missing.

Fine, I thought - I'll make a new gate this afternoon, and everything should be sorted out. Except that the gate was part of the territory of a bantam cock, who spent the whole afternoon trying to sneak up and gore me. It was amusing at first, but wore very thin after a couple of hours. Chasing him away didn't work, hitting him with rocks didn't work. I was very happy to get that gate done, and so was the AI man. Very much like a tiny velociraptor (the chicken, not the AI guy).

magstheaxe - thanks!
posted by sneebler at 4:18 PM on September 14, 2009

Wow, it sounds like my exposure was to a toy rooster. He really didn't have much on tap. Even to a 12-year-old kid, he wasn't especially worrisome.
posted by Malor at 7:33 PM on September 14, 2009

squalor--my mother always said with a laugh:

whistling girls
and crowing hens
come to no good ends

(usually stopping in the middle of whistling an aria to do so).
posted by miss patrish at 8:36 PM on September 14, 2009

A woman who whistles
Or a hen that crows
Has her way
Wherever she goes

whistling girls
and crowing hens
come to no good ends

Heh. My dad is also one hell of a whistler (Mom kept encouraging him to enter into competitions, but he wouldn't do it) and he taught me to whistle, so I have heard all of the above. I was also warned by many women that I'd grow a mustache if I kept whistling.

Never saw a hen try to crow, though. Daddy said he saw it once, and the roosters in the yard immediately turned on her and killed her.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:45 AM on September 15, 2009

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