It’s the little things (that show you care)

Here on the farm sanctuary of the Quarry Farm, you all know by now that we have chickens. Of those chickens, four are roosters. One rooster, Sid, doesn’t count because he is fancy and that keeps him docile and slow-moving. Bernie, Jeff and Ralph are birds of a different feather altogether.

These three probable Rhode Island Reds have three different origins that shall remain a mystery to us. But all three will live their lives together in the paddock with Buddy the miniature donkey and Nigerian dwarf goats S’more and Marsh. Sid has the roam of the rest of the place where he is tolerated by the hens who can easily out-manuever  him. The three other roosters have an easy truce between themselves as long as the hens keep out of the paddock. And when no one is in there with Mr. Shovel.

Unfortunately Mr. Shovel must make an appearance every morning in order to remove the donkey, goat and rooster leavings from the previous day. Bernie, the original rooster, does not care for Mr. Shovel. Nor does he particularly care for the person who is wielding Mr. Shovel.

If you have ever been spurred by a full-grown rooster, you know it results in white-hot searing pain that bleeds like nobody’s business. The kick that accompanies the spur usually leaves bruises. I myself actually suffered my first severe ankle sprain after a confrontation with Bernie. Since chicken dinner is not on the menu here on the farm sanctuary (so don’t even go there) I have learned: A) not to wear bright red around Bernie; B) keep Mr. Shovel between myself and Bernie; C) make sure Ralph is keeping an eye on Bernie.

At first Bernie was very friendly, but sometime during the course of the second year he became aggressive, mostly with me. Steven claims it is because I wore a bright red rain jacket around him. The jacket went to Goodwill, but Bernie still came after me every time my back was turned. So Bernie was banished to the paddock so he wouldn’t go after anyone else. That helped until he took a dislike to Mr. Shovel. Enter Ralph.

Ralph came to live with us about two years after Bernie did. He was adopted with a group of hens, all unwanted by an Allen County landowner. So as to give the hens here a relatively stress-free existence, we put Ralph in the paddock, too. Ralph and Bernie duked it out for a while and Ralph came out on top. Jeff joined the fray some time later the same summer. Ralph remained the dominant rooster, so much so that Bernie’s comb diminished and he became quite tame. For about a season.

This spring, Bernie again decided that I am not to be trusted and indeed am to be chucked out of the paddock at every opportunity. But Ralph doesn’t feel that way. My little red-combed savior will keep himself between Bernie and me, even driving Bernie off to the far corner of the paddock. Ralph will also break up private trysts between Jeff and a hen named Barbara, but that’s a different story.

Just a few minutes ago, Ralph came to my rescue again. After posting this, I am going to take him a slice of yellow squash.

By the way, the photo of the horned worm has nothing to do with this story. Steve took this last week as these voracious creatures were being hand-eradicated from the tomato patch at Red Fox Cabin. I just thought it was a cool shot.

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