Way back when, my husband used to call me and one of my besties a coupla’ hens.
We may have sounded a bit like em when we’d get to clucking about life and all the funny stuff that comes with it.
I never took it in a bad way though…it was more of an endearing little compliment, especially because his eyes would sparkle when he’d smile at us.
Like he thought we were cute when we’d get to giggling.
I don’t think it was an endearing compliment though, when one of the gentlemen on a neighborhood chat page called a handful of us women “hens in a house”.
Something tells me his heart wasn’t swelling in adoration over the feminine laughter that can tend toward a cackle when something’s really funny.
No, I didn’t get the impression he was complimenting us at all.
We were disagreeing with him you see.
And not everyone likes it when you disagree with them.
That’s when they’ll resort to name calling.
And that night, as I read his comments and the ones that followed from various hens, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one mentioned the very first thing that popped into my mind when I read his comment.
Yep, you know what’s comin’…
I sure don’t want to focus on this poor guy too long because some folks just have a knack for saying what’s on their mind without thinking it through. And, because I’m a writer, I always have to think things through twice; once before I say them, and again before I write them. So I just sat on his comment a while and thought I’d let it slide on by like we all do when someone opens their mouth and lets something rude slip out.
But as I read the thread, the irony of his analogy did make me giggle as I knew there were at least two of us in the chat group who are die hard chicken farmers.
He may or may not know how much us farmer types admire hens and how hard they work, as if their industriousness is bred right on into them, or how entertaining they can be with their individual and adorable poultry quirks, or how loyal they are to their farm and their offspring…but it was funny to me that what he thought was an insult, several of us could actually view as a compliment.
As I lay my head down that night, and then again the next morning, I couldn’t help but write in my mind (because that’s what us writers do even when we don’t realize it don’t we?) about all the different traits of chickens.
And then my thoughts settled right in on the three different kinds of roosters.
So my son, he knows roosters. One of the types we have on our barnyard right now are called bantams. They’re tiny. Wittle bitty guys that fit in the palm of your hand. One is fluffy and purty, a silkie, the other has little snow-shoe feet with feathers fluffing off of them and he tiptoes around like a little old man on the ice. He’s a high falutin’ D’Uccle.
The funny thing is, they don’t know they’re little. They strut around like they’re big shots on the barnyard and when they see something they don’t like they’ll puff up and get ready to let out a big ol’ crow. Except their manly COCKADOODLEDOOO coming out of their itty bitty body sounds more like a COCK-UH-UHHNNNNnnnn like they started to yell but just ended up clearing their throat instead.
We call these roosters “the babies”. They’d probably die in disgrace if they understood, they think they’re roosters after all, but as my son says, “Mom, they’re so cute. They can’t even reach the perch to sit with the hens. I have to pick them up and set them up there just so they can go to bed with the flock at night.”
We laugh at how cute our little roosters are…trying to be just like the big boys but really, not even being big boy enough to have a big boy walk or talk.
Then there are the roosters we all think of when we think “ROOSTER”.
That’s right, the mean and nasty ones. We had one once but he doesn’t live here any more. In fact, he just doesn’t live period.
See, Sir Lolly started out nice enough. Just another little cockerel in the flock. He played nicely with the hens, he wasn’t mean to the kids, and he was growing into a real gentleman.
But when Lolly started to get his spurs, he started to turn mean, and no amount of sweet talk from his owner, my littlest boy, would change him. My youngest even tried preaching to Lolly. He’d climb up into the bed of his Daddy’s pickup truck and give Lolly the lo down on the greatest stories of all. He’d worked his way all the way up to the Ten Commandments but Lolly just got nastier. My boy’s Sunday school teacher told him to just keep at it and that once Lolly heard about Jesus, he’d probably repent from his bad behavior. (We kinda love our chickens round here.)
But Lolly never heard the gospel message from my little preacher because one day, after a whole lot of bluffs and charges and noise and false alarms, Lolly charged my big farmer full on.
And then my big farmer had a decision to make.
If Lolly would go after the biggest of us, he had officially become a danger to the smallest of us.
So, late one night, my husband removed the danger from our barnyard, and between a few tears and a truck ride and a cold slushie, he explained to our little boy about how, as man of the barnyard, sometimes a farmer has to do hard things to protect those who are in his care.
Lolly was too mean for his own good. He used his spurs for nastiness and all it did was hurt others and end ugly.
After a sweet little funeral for our too-mean rooster, we left the barnyard to the hens for a while and they did okay. Hens are like that. They just carry on and do what needs doing.
But as is with farming, birds soon change hands and here came a rooster and we all watched him for a bit to see if he’d be a Sir Lolly wanna-be.
The kids even named him Monster, thinking he would be.
But he wasn’t.
He was sweet.
He let he hens eat first.
He kept the boundary line of the barnyard intact by patrolling several times a day.
He shuffled all the hens to the safety of the woods line when there was danger afoot and we realized one day he often turned his head up to the sky and watched when a raven or an eagle was flying over.
We thought maybe when his spurs grew out he’d turn.
He once acted like he wanted to chase my daughter but when she stood her ground and looked him in the eye, he retreated and went back to doing his job and he let her do hers.
Once he reached maturity, we realized he was going to be a b-I-g rooster. With b-I-g spurs. They are well over an inch long now.
But guess what?
In all the time we’ve owned this rooster, he’s never once used them on us.
He’s done a fine job of protecting his hens, his barnyard, and himself, but he’s never once been needlessly nasty or mean.
His rare displays of his strength come with a reason.
They are short-lived.
He uses his spurs only when he needs to.
He could have a whole barnyard in fear and dread of him but he doesn’t.
He simply does his job and lets everyone else do theirs.
What kind of rooster are you?
My big farmer husband is teaching our boys to be like Monster.
One who is gentle and lets others do their job.
One who doesn’t feel the need to show their spurs.
One who knows their strength but chooses not to strut it.
He is teaching them to be men who serve gently, respect others, keep an eye on those in their care, protect against danger, and show their strength in times of peril.
I want to be that kind of critter.
The kind who has your back.
The kind who will fight the enemy and protect his own fiercely, but is always kind and gentle with his family and friends and neighbors.
The kind who isn’t mean.
The kind who doesn’t need to be lifted up to sit with their peers.
The kind who knows how to talk AND walk.
The kind who doesn’t show his spurs just for show.
And with roosters like that on the barnyard, it’s a pretty good job being a hen in the house.
The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.