Note: My sister’s family raised a small batch of chickens recently and their antics are partly reflected in these tales reported by their children, Lady Esther and Lord Adrian.
Rooster Tales: Tale #1
As luck would have it, the estate of Master David and Madam Luisa LaFleur provided acreage aplenty for various social activities, both for their children as well as well as for wandering woodland creatures. Of all the animals hosted there, none compare to the raucous, bawdy flock of thespians disguised as chickens that housed themselves on the grounds in the early part of the twenty first century.
One spring, Master Douglas built a cylindrical wire hen house, closely resembling a medieval castle, complete with pointed roof and a small pennon displaying the LaFleur family crest. About a week later, out of nowhere, a troupe of six small chickens showed up and began surveying the grounds. Lord Adrian and Lady Esther were delighted! So much so that they met with their younger siblings, Lady Triana and Lady Fiskers and all agreed to throw compost, bread crumbs, and any other edible leftovers out on the lawn as often as they could to keep them happy without their mother, Madam Luisa, becoming too aware of the missing items (or the gardener complaining of withered compost on the grounds). It wasn’t long before the chickens had names and an open door to the hen house where they all retreated as soon as it began to get dark each day. Lord Adrian and Lady Esther secured the door of the castle each evening to keep out any unwanted interlopers such as fox or possum.
Biscuit, Cookie, Dottie, Gertie, Sandy, and Tootie were known to erupt into high pitched laughter at the slightest suggestion: “Buck, buck, buck, buck, buck!” When Dottie chased down a grass hopper, the other girls gathered around, and “buck, buck, buck, buck!” What hilarity! One time Sandy ran aimlessly into the woods and the others thought, “Follow the leader! Buck, buck, buck!” and one by one they followed, their little hocks rocking side to side. It was there, in the cool, musty, dank and fertile forest that the troupe devised a new plan for entertainment. A plan that would eventually lead to their demise…
Rooster Tale #2
Have you ever smelled the glorious aroma of composting pine needles or leaves on a forest floor? This unforgettable scent became even more noticeable in the woods surrounding LaFleur Manor because the hens scritch scratched every square inch looking for tasty bugs. Late one afternoon, Cookie called the girls together and suggested they begin acting out their favorite stories.
“Let’s play Cinderella,” Dottie suggested. “We can use these leaves to make gowns for the ball!” By gently slipping leaves between their feathers, each of the hens soon began spinning around in long leafy skirts as if dancing to music in a ballroom.
“GET BACK TO WORK!” screeched Cookie, assuming the role of the evil stepmother. Sandy immediately stopped spinning and began to work her way back to the lush grassy area of the manor, out of the woods. Pretending she was Cinderella, she plucked out several leaves of her gown and began swishing her feet to and fro as if sweeping them, head down. Another time, the girls decided to act out King Arthur, using a tough sprig of wheat grass as the sword in the stone. Whoever could pluck it completely out of the ground would become the rightful King of England with Lady Guinevere at his side. Cookie won that one. Then there was the Hobbit with Biscuit playing Bilbo Baggins, and Gertie playing Gollum. There was hardly a story they couldn’t re-enact! Each performance was usually followed by a round of “buck, buck, bucks” at which the girls would run, giggling, single file to the hen house just at dusk. It wasn’t until the re-enactment of the Wizard of Oz, however, that the girls began to notice a BIG change in Cookie.
Rooster Tale #3
Due in part to generous food provisions, and also partly to the passing of time, the hens were growing and many of them began laying eggs around the grounds here and there. Their laying of eggs became a bit of a nuisance as the hens never knew where to leave their eggs. The hen house was usually in such disarray! However, once their duties were carried out, the hens gathered each afternoon to plan their next activity.
“Let’s act out Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz!” Tootie suggested. “I want to play Toto, the dog!”
“I get to be Dorothy!” clucked Dottie.
“Cookie, why don’t you be the Wicked Witch of the West?” suggested Gertie.
“Let’s all gather the most yellow leaves we can find and put them down through the woods to make the yellow brick road!” suggested Biscuit. “And our hen house can be the Wicked Witch’s castle!”
With that, Tootie began gathering and inserting leaves to make a dress for Dorothy while the others picked and swished yellow leaves to make a small path into the woods. Once complete, the performance went along beautifully. The hens followed Dorothy down the narrow path with Tootie at her side, wagging tail feathers as much like a dog as she could muster. When it came time for the Wicked Witch’s part, all the hens were delighted to see Cookie perched above the hen house. She hunkered down and looked more like one of the monkey gargoyles than the witch, but no one said anything.
“I’ll get you and your stinky dog Millie too!” she clucked.
“No, Cookie, it’s ‘I’ll get you and your little dog Toto, too!’” Tootie cried.
Refusing to repeat the line, Cookie swooped down, ran around, and pecked at the heads of all the hens in the performance. She did so quite violently, amid squawks and yelps, until all were scattered about the drive and grounds, running in circles, not sure what just happened. Cookie then retreated to the top of the hen house to survey the actors who stared up at her in disbelief. She began to feel different that day and wasn’t sure herself what brought on such unfavorable behavior.
Rooster Tale #4
Cookie began to stare off into the distance while perched atop the hen house each day. She no longer engaged in theatrics or charades with the others, but felt like she had to be sure everyone was protected and hoped that she could protect them if called upon to do so. She also began to feel like she should challenge anyone who didn’t appear to appreciate her new job, even fight them if necessary. Cookie rarely came down, and when she did, she ate, ran around for awhile on her own, and then selected one of the hens to peck mercilessly. The others couldn’t understand what had happened to Cookie. Gertie noticed Cookie never laid any eggs—she didn’t have time to between roof perching, pushing, and head pecking. Upon seeing a fox nearby, Lord Adrian occasionally went out and had the unfortunate task of retrieving Cookie from off the roof at dusk. He would snatch her feet as quickly as possible, hold her upside down and carry her to the door of the hen house whereupon he would toss her inside and secure the wire entry. The other hens clucked unhappily, but made room nonetheless.
One Saturday morning, it happened that Ladies Triana and Fiskers decided to ride their bikes up and down the long drive at LaFleur Manor.
Accompanied by their faithful dog, Millie, the two young ladies had hardly made one lap when they heard,
“I’ll get you and your stinky dog, Millie, too!”
“Who said that?” Fiskers asked.
Within seconds, a chicken descended upon the girls and began pecking their heads and trying to spear their legs with sharp chicken toe nails. Both girls screamed, bringing Master Adrian outside with a broom that he used to beat the chicken away. Millie, jumped up and down, but couldn’t get a good grip on Cookie from any angle (or didn’t really want to).
This episode was in itself enough to warrant the eviction of Cookie, but what happened the next morning absolutely sealed the deal to arrange for the removal of this pitiful excuse for poultry from the grounds of the LaFleur estate.
Rooster Tale #5
Sometimes one’s environment presents challenges that can be met only through the transformation of an individual’s nature. After some consultations with a nearby farmer, Mr. Bently, the LaFleurs came to understand that Cookie had transformed herself from a hen to a rooster. In this case, Cookie became Hannibal the Horrible. But the hen house had suddenly become a thriving den for thieves! All manner of creatures slunk through there at night. Some exhibited drunken-like behavior inappropriate for any hen house, and others tried to bunk in with any hens who let them. Others attempted to kidnap a sleepy, sluggish hen in the hopes of eloping or so it was thought. Hannibal became enraged at the increasing night time raids going on. One night Gertie and Dottie disappeared, leaving feathers trailing into the woods and Hannibal realized this troupe of actors slept so soundly that no one heard or knew what was happening! He simply had to resort to roof sleeping so he could be on guard and make noise to awaken the others in case of emergency. Sandy and Tootie made a secret pact to go nowhere without each other. Times were simply too dangerous, with Hannibal’s pushing and head pecking by day and unknown marauders entering the hen house at night. The two traveled deeper and deeper into the woods to avoid Hannibal, and soon everyone assumed they found a new residence because they never returned. That left only Biscuit to face the menacing mood of Hannibal.
“Stop being so mean!” Biscuit clucked. “It’s because of you that all the others have fled!”
“It’s because of YOU, you old biddie and your childish theatrics! You were the ones who scratched a moat around the hen house! How do you think these bloody pirates are getting in here every night?!”” Hannibal bellowed. With that, he pushed, beat and pecked Biscuit until her eyes were red and patchy. She screamed, ran, and hid beneath the stairs of the estate until Hannibal returned to his perch.
The following morning, Lord Adrian heard a raucous commotion on the grounds and opened the door to see what it was about. Lady Esther took one look out the window and with her hand to her mouth, gasped as tears began to form. How long this particular battle between Biscuit and Hannibal had been going on, no one is sure, but what ISknown is that dear sweet Biscuit succumbed to the evil bullying of Hannibal the Horrible. She lay soft in the grass, bald spots from prior pluckings by Hannibal, bloodied head and a heart that could beat no more. This was without a doubt the last straw for Hannibal. There would be consequences. Master Douglas flung Hannibal up into the wind and as if at bat, when he came down, boosted the rooster two miles down the road with a large broom. Madam LaFleur and the children decided to withhold all compost, food, and water, knowing that Hannibal would have to re-locate, perhaps south where he just might find a river with plenty of sustenance.
Things were pretty quiet on the grounds after that. It wasn’t but two days later that Eleanor Bently appeared at the gates. Head wrapped in gauze bandages, she offered the LaFleur’s a pot of hearty chicken stew. Madam Louisa caught the gleam in her eye, smiled, and thanked her mightily. Returning to her kitchen, Madam Louisa immediately began dancing and preparing to bake some bread.
Note: Gertie called a month later to say that she and Dottie had jumped a train headed north and were having fun as part of Buster Keaton’s actors colony. When she asked how the others were doing, Lord Adrian made a crackling noise, said the connection must be bad, thanked her for calling, and hung up…