Cowardice in hen house nothing to crow about

Tri-City HeraldJuly 4, 2012 

The chicken coop is now the new dog house these days, according to Sunset magazine.

More than likely that’s because it houses a rooster meaner than a junkyard dog.

I came in contact — from a safe distance — with one of these guard chickens the other evening while visiting at the neighbor’s place.

These genteel folks are into the back-to-nature experience with a flock of hens — and one cocky rooster who makes gathering fresh eggs not all it’s cracked up to be. Their grandkids are walking on eggshells, in terror of getting too close to “nature.”

I now understand.

Crowing louder than a vicious barking dog, I heard the fiery rooster inside the coop daring anyone to come between him and his hens. You’d have thought the “chicken whisperer” just up the road would have cured this feathered fowl of his ornery behavior.

As the story goes, this farmer answered pleas — and probably a few screams — from the grandchildren caring for their grandparents’ place while they vacationed. To the rescue came the soft-spoken man, his hands ready for action.

Once inside the pen, the “chicken whisperer” gave the rooster a dressing down at arm’s length to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart — or neck? — while tossing insults. Surprisingly, that didn’t take the cocky out of the doodle. In fact, it didn’t even scratch the surface.

“You just can’t turn your back on the rooster,” the tough old bird told me on the phone. “Keep staring at his beady eyes and he’ll get nervous.”

So a couple of nights later, there I was at my neighbor’s chicken coop scouting for a blog. Kelsey, their college-age granddaughter was just about to enter the pen.

“You can come in with me,” she offered as she slowly opened the gate, her eyes focused on the rooster.

I peered over the fence, sizing up the cantankerous fowl — and the weapons he wore.

“Maybe you can just take my iPhone and snap a picture,” I said guiltily as she turned bravely toward the hen house.

At that moment, even my embarrassment couldn’t spur me to enter the hen house. But then I’m a little chicken when it comes to a rooster pretending to be a pit bull.

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