We had a lot of excitement around here last month with the release of the book "Knowing By Heart" (now available from Chapel Street Editions, your local independent bookstore, or Amazon). With all that going on, we have been neglecting the blog, but here's a new / old column for your enjoyment. This was a very early one, from January 1987 featuring some craziness in the hen house!
of unauthorized apple-grabbing - we have a monopoly on the megalomaniac condition, just cast your eye around the barnyard some afternoon when the fog isn't too thick. I would venture to suggest that some of the more notable two-legged megalo-whatevers could take a course from some of what are called the brute beasts, and learn a lot.
For example, we have a banty rooster, of the Silkie breed, who must be all of six inches high. I mean, big, right? He was given to us by a kind neighbor who was tired of carrying a shovel with her every time she wanted to pick up eggs. (The shovel being shiny, Himself busied himself with beating heck out of his reflection while our neighbor went about her business relatively unconcerned.) He looks like the inside of a down coat that suffered death by electrocution and is about as frivolous an item of self-propelled egotism as I have ever seen.
From a nodding acquaintance with chickens – and I have just joined the New Brunswick Fur and Feather Association and so am entitled to pontificate – I would say that God does not get off scot-free on the wackiness that afflicts the breed, nor their progenitors. [When did you last see a Silkie rooster? Would you care to speculate on the mental condition – see definition in the first paragraph, above – of the fellow who first set out to produce a Silkie? I wouldn't.]
Frankly, I think the old boy (God) sat around over the drafting table with all the plans for this particular universe, and, maybe during a long phone conversation with St. Peter over some stock-taking anomalies in the new apple-orchard, he was doodling on a page headed "CHICKENS, ETC." By the time he'd hung up, he had quite a series of loony tunes lined out and didn't have the heart just to erase the lot. Instead, he stuck them away down inside the “Possibilities” section of the freshly minted Chicken and stood back to await results. Knowing Man as he did, no doubt he wasn't too surprised when the first Silkie emerged from the egg and proclaimed its presence on the world stage. As the fellow said, it's been downhill ever since.
Any Silkie is aerodynamically unsound [obviously – how far do you think the Wright brothers would have gotten if they had decided to thatch the wings of their airplane with dust kittens?], and so our rooster spends his nights on a low perch that he can hop onto, and looks glum, while his wives spend a peaceful night on the electric wire that runs just below the ceiling. No doubt this sours his already bilious view of the rest of the world, but it does have the advantage that he can leap – but not lightly – from his perch, and prepare to do battle with anyone who might have the temerity to enter his domain. If you are a megalomaniac rooster you certainly don't want people thinking they can bring in food or water just because you might have need of them.
There is, of course, no arguing with the megalomaniac mind. Our rooster may face odds of two-hundred-or-so to one when he faces off to let me know my servile status. It doesn't matter to him. It obviously hasn't occurred to him that, when he draws himself up to his full six inches, he looks like something Dupont could use to convince people to buy Hollofil® instead of down. Any real enemy, if he were to be defeated, would probably lose because he was helpless with mirth and unable to organize an effective resistance.
I may be bigger than my rooster, but he always has the last word. After I leave the henhouse, and shut the door behind me, I wait for the tiny "thunk" on the bottom of the door. It's Himself, hurling his last insult at the defeated intruder.
Napoleons-to-be should take note – but they might also want to consider the soup pot that is in our hero's future.
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.