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Chuckles the rooster avoids date with death

Smartest chicken on Little Farm by the Creek impersonates hen to escape freezer

Smartest chicken on Little Farm by the Creek impersonates hen to escape freezer

November 11, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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When I was a kid, the chickens we raised for meat were not "slaughtered." They were "dressed." Or "processed." The difference might have been lost on a chicken, but it made us feel better.

Why say that you are going to scald, pluck, gut, eviscerate or disembowel a chicken when you can simply say that you are going to "put it in the freezer?"

The terminology comes into play because we bought a run of 15 araucana chickens last summer, figuring on about half hens, half roosters. Instead, we got 11 boys and four girls.

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There is no appreciation for males on a farm. Females are desired, coddled, swooned over and treasured. But if you're a boy, it's an inside view of an upright Amana for you.

The roosters' date with destiny was scheduled for Nov. 4, and for three days prior, I couldn't look any of them in the eye. We decided to keep one rooster for picturesque "crowing on a fencepost at dawn" purposes, but the rest had to go. (Stink, the stinkbug-eating chicken, was obviously the lucky boy.)

As all roosters do, the fellows would run around the place while shrieking, fighting, mauling hens and being truly sociable. The hens -- including one I'd named Chuckles, for her clown-like, feathered sideburns -- would sit in the coop all day to keep away from the crowing motorcycle gang on the outside.

So after the roosters had been duly dispatched, the hens cautiously began to emerge into the sunlight. They were understandably timid at first -- all except Chuckles, who suddenly became as bold and fearless as Captain Cook.

The chicken followed me around like a dog, pecked at my feet, chased the other girls with spirit and then stretched her neck to its fullest -- and crowed.

"You devious little fraud!" I thundered.

This is the absolute truth: For five months, the jerk had lived with the hens and acted like the hens. (S)he never joined in with the band of brothers outside, never crowed, never tried to mate with the other girls -- never did anything to indicate she was a he.

But the day after we returned from the abattoir and he determined the coast was clear, oh brother, did he begin to make up for lost time.

Lacking practice, Chuckles' crows were a little rocky at first. But his ego exploded through the roof and he chased down every last hen, as if he were a cross between Foghorn Leghorn and Bill Clinton.

So now what? Two roosters almost always wind up with irreconcilable differences, so it would make sense to eliminate one. Stink's value and virtue are beyond reproach. Then we have Chuckles, whose resume includes deceit, duplicity, betrayal, dishonesty, subterfuge and a blackness of soul unparalleled among fowl. But, in him, we may also hold title to the wisest chicken to ever walk the earth.

Plus, there's an unwritten rule at Little Farm by the Creek that once you receive a name, you are safe from the butcher's knives. And he has those curious and wondrous locks that jut from his cheeks like Martin Van Buren experiencing an electrical shock.

So for now, let's just say that Chuckles is on double secret probation. We have another load of broiler chickens that have a date with the freezer in another week. Chuckles can shape up or get dressed. The choice is up to him.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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