Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Little Match Rooster

Today is the first day it has felt and looked like winter out here in middle earth. And now that Christmas is over, it's not as much fun as I thought it would be.

This week went by all too quickly after a wonderful Christmas spent with family, and several days with my mom, dad, and Annabelle in my hometown…I returned home only to be reminded that Christmas is over, the tree must come down, and I am forced to return to work tomorrow which means leaving Annabelle again.

So immediately after waking this morning, I gingerly put away all the Christmas ornaments and supervised Bryan removing all the lights and labeling each string “partially out” with my label maker. It’s much more fun to fix Christmas lights before Christmas than after, trust me on this.

As if taking the Christmas tree down isn’t depressing enough, I had to watch Bryan hacksaw ours into 3 pieces and stuff it into our woodstove and burn it. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that it heated our house today, but mostly it was just depressing. And there’s something not right about hearing a loved one say “Ok. Going to burn the Christmas tree.”
(Feel Free to make note of Milton about to eat a mini-pumpkin that we heaved into the yard after the season of giving Thanks).

To distract myself from the impending Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the fact that I am going to be again separated from my baby for far too many hours and days, I am attempting to distract myself with one of my Christmas presents from Bryan.

Yes, that’s right, a book about raising chickens. Bryan is not going to let me skip around the property collecting eggs and giving the chickens clever names like Cluckles and Bob, I apparently must KNOW what we’re doing. Sigh. So let me share with you some highlights of chicken ownership that I may not have been aware of prior to receiving my chicken book:

1. Under the section “Poisons and Other Hazards” was the following chart:
Poison - Source
Copper Sulfate -Antifungal Treatment
Ethylene Glycol -Spilled Antifreeze
Mercury -Disinfectant or Fungicide
Lead -Paint or Orchard Spray
Carbon Monoxide -Carrying chickens in trunk of car

Ummm…is this a potential threat? Other than getting your initial chicken purchase home, when is this going to be an issue?? I’m sure those of you who are coworkers of mine will be disappointed to learn that with this knowledge I can no longer transport my chickens to and from the office every day.

2. In the chapter “routine management” I learned that if your chickens are not given space and time to “scratch” you have to trim their beaks. Chickens can develop serious eating and health issues if their top beak is allowed to grow too long. When I was pregnant it was quickly decided that Bryan was going to be in charge of trimming the baby’s fingernails, as it seemed (and still does seem) to be too frightening a task. How am I expected to trim a LIVE CHICKEN’S BEAK? How does one even execute such a beauty regime? And while the book does give simple instruction on how to handle this, I guarantee you my beak-trimming will not end well. That can be one of Annabelle's chores.

3. Under the section “how to butcher your chicken” I learned the four acceptable ways to humanely end a chicken’s life. I think if forced into that situation I will choose method number four- a handgun. “A .22 handgun makes a fast, clean job of it but is a suitable option only if you live in a rural area where shooting is legal and may be done safely.” Am I the only one who thinks shooting a chicken is a bit excessive?

4. And finally…you can learn to communicate with chickens using such chicken words like “tuck, tuck, tuck.” This point was illustrated by the author’s own personal account of using this language to communicate with a rooster. She told a story about finding a strange rooster in their yard during a snowstorm. Knowing it would surely freeze and die, they tried to catch it and coax it with food with no success. It would just fly up into a tree and remain there. The woman finally came out and said “tuck, tuck, tuck” and the rooster flew into her arms. It’s possible I’m paraphrasing.

Bryan was reading this section to me while we were driving to my sister’s for Christmas day. My only response was “Where do these people live that they have rogue roosters just flying around their yard in the middle of winter?” and of course Bryan said “that happened to me once.” He then shared his own tale of rogue roosterdom.

Basically the exact same thing happened to him. One snowy day in winter there was a rooster in his yard and he tried everything to catch it. He apparently did not know the patented “tuck, tuck, tuck” method of rooster-catching because he didn’t catch it. He said after two days he gave up. Now I assumed this story would end with the rooster meeting his demise via butchering method four- being shot with a handgun. But no…sadly this rooster froze to death. We know this because Bryan found him in the spring. I said it was just like that Christmas story, the Little Match Girl.

In case you, like Bryan, are not familiar with the story, the Little Match Girl is a heartwarming Christmas story by Hans Christen Andersen wherein a little poverty stricken girl is forced to sell matches in the street. It is freezing cold out, but she has to keep selling matches because if she doesn’t, her father will beat her when she gets home. So she decides to sit down and rest, and while resting she sees her grandmother. As it turns out, she sees her grandmother because she is in heaven as she has died in the street. Merry Christmas to you too, Hans.

It was this heartwarming holiday tale that reminded me of Bryan’s rogue rooster from the Christmas of 2007. We will never know his story.

Many thanks to my not-quite-yet-a-husband for a Christmas present that continues to amuse me daily. And while I look out the window and realize I have to get up at five a.m. to drive 60 miles to work with a wind chill of -12, I think of the poor Little Match Rooster, frozen to death under a winter’s worth of snow, having been moved twice by a snow plow, and I am counting my lucky stars...but not before they're hatched.

Happy New Year.

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