Rooster at Turtle Rock Farm

He’s a beautiful creature.
His red feathers shine
and the tips of his black tail feathers
glow green.
He’s a bit scary though:
he protects the five hens
by attacking me
sometimes.
Last week,
he attacked David,
the WWOOFer who was putting out food for them.
Fortunately, David had on a heavy jacket
and the rooster didn’t draw blood.
A few days ago,
he not only ran toward me
but, as I stood my ground,
he flew up at me.
Pretty impressive.
I’ve continued to get down at eye level
and talk to him,
reassure him that I won’t hurt his flock.
But now I learn
I’ve been doing it all wrong.

In an amusing article
on the Mother Earth News website,
poultry farmer Robert Plamondon
writes:

Maybe you’ve heard that a stage hypnotist can make you think you’re a chicken. That’s nothing! Even a chicken can make you think you’re a chicken! In these barnyard fight scenes, the rooster is in charge from start to finish. First, he decides what’s going to happen: a fight, right here, right now. Then he gets you to join the fight. How does this happen? And how do you make it stop?

But let’s not give too much credit to the rooster. The issue isn’t that the rooster is powerful, but that the human automatically accepts whatever role is thrust on him, and that means that even a chicken can redefine who you are! … at least for a minute or two.

Don’t forget, a rooster who thinks that you’re a fellow rooster is mistaken! And by fighting him, you are not only participating in his delusion, you’re reinforcing it. First he was convincing you, and now you’re convincing him.

It’s not hard to desensitize an aggressive rooster. The first step is to desensitize yourself. Look deep into my eyes: You’re not a chicken. Rooster rules don’t apply to you, and this means that you are free to act in an un-rooster-like manner. You have options, and the most important option is to reject the roles that others project onto you.

The thing to do,
says Plamondon,
is withdraw.
Don’t walk toward him.
(Don’t lean down and talk to them
eye-to-eye either—
evidently just as threatening,
from the rooster’s point of view.)
And, as my friend Deb had advised,
come with a handful of corn.
Plamondon agrees:

Roosters know that other roosters don’t double as feed dispensers, so when they associate you with food, it’s hard for them to think of you as a fellow rooster.

I had finally remembered
yesterday
when I was in the farm store,
to pick up some corn.
I took some out this morning
and fed the fine rooster.
Gave a little to the lovely hens
too.
It was a relief
to see the rooster happy.
And to get my identity straight:
I am not a rooster;
I am a corn dispenser.