The cock crowed thrice…

I was occupied in those delicate rural pastimes which give us country folk our reputation for sensitivity and finer feelings while thinking about tonight’s post. In other words I had my hand up a rooster’s nether end. It was warm, which was a nice change for my hand, on account of it being bloody freezing out. The rooster may have liked it less, but it was dead. My hand was bloody, but no longer freezing.

I was engaged in country art… having plucked the rooster, I was now occupied in drawing it. I could have won a Turner Prize for it, had I added a bit post-modern angst. Which kind of brought me around to the topic for to today, partly about roosters, and partly about art and the eye of the beholder.

Now, oddly, to you, for us chicken is a rare treat, which only happens when 1)my chooks stop laying, 2)Someone else gives us a chicken. Yes, I could start doing meat-chickens, and I will one day. But between writing, bits of farm work, building, fishing, hunting, growing all our veg, and raising pigs to magically transform them into bacon, I have quite a full plate, and life keeps handing me bits I’m not overly good at to learn like electronic wizardry, and auto-mechanic skills. We can eat quail, pheasant, ducks, turkeys, Cape Barren Geese – none of which I need to feed or keep alive.

I’ve learned one thing that really applies to writing from this: learn how to do simple stuff extremely well, before you venture onto complex things. I make bacon really well. Really, really well, I have been told. So why don’t I do… some really fancy-schmanzy pork product? I don’t because I’m still mastering bacon. When I’m totally confident with that I’ll move on. I do. I did Salami for the first time last year. Just plain Salami, and that was quite a job. It was good. I’m gearing up to tackle it again, better. Every time will be better, because I know and understand the basics really well. All too many people start writing the great, meaningful novel when really, they need to get good at writing a simple story that really holds audiences.

So going back to the rooster… One of my mates (that’s Australian for friend, before you jump to any conclusions) got himself an incubator, and ordered in some eggs and got given a few. His early success was pretty tepid – with the only success being one rooster from the eggs he’d been given. A cross, not a bad bird, but not what he was after. Still, that was his first successes, and got reared, while the second batch came in and hatched, this time successfully, with one rooster, of the breed he wanted.

You can see where all this is going, can’t you?

Well, not directly, you can’t.

The chicks having no mother-hen but him, followed him around, and were very tame and very pampered. He wanted eggs, and to breed. They’re not dinner chooks. They were heading for a good, long and pampered life, with every chicken treat lavished on them. They have a huge run, palatial nesting boxes, a warm roost, and cool perches for summer, get loads of fresh produce as well as grain and laying mash. Their master goes in and lets them eat from his hands and stand on him while they do it.

All they have to do is lay eggs… or fertilize them. That’s all the customer wanted, and he was prepared to put up with a bit of chicken-poop on his knees for it.

Now, usually roosters have a couple of features that tend to stick on the mind and not just the trouser knees.

One is: they crow. They crow a lot. And not just at cock-crow either. If they ain’t opening their mouths to eat, they’re crowing about how Alpha they are… especially if there is another rooster within earshot.

The second is they’re top of the pecking order. Chickens are patriarchal hierarchy in the epitome. Women’s lib doesn’t get much of a look-in. If chickens really are the distant heritors of T. rex’s dinosaur mantle, Rachel Swirsky’s dinosaur love would have told her to ‘get back into the kitchen and make me sammich’ which would indeed have been something unique and new in the annals of modern sf. I’m sorry, that’s chickens. They’re not PC. They lay eggs. They’re pretty good to eat. And two roosters in one pen… can get terminal.

Only this was not the case. The roosters got on fairly amicably… well one of them did. The second, desirable, pure bred rooster seemed to know the run was his by right, and while he was wary about making it physical, because the crossbreed was a bit bigger, he never shut up, and was a demon on the hens. The cross-breed seemed to figure he was there on sufferance, and within limits accepted being number 2. And pure-breed had to keep crowing about it.

Getting older… the pure-bred started feeling his oats, and took to attacking everything, even my mate, coming to feed him. And he crowed, all the time, to let number two know. Unfortunately, he let everyone else know too.

Now my buddy’s quite capable of killing chooks, but this one he’d raised from the egg. It knew it had as much rein as it liked. But when it finally half-killed one of the laying hens…

My friend decided he’d rather have the half-breed. He put the important one in a cardboard box, and gave it to Barbs for me.

It crowed all the way here.

And it got here, and crowed at me, three times. Once from the box, once when I grabbed its feet, and third time it stopped half way.

I gather the half-breed has stepped up to the position nobly.

I guess, besides a roast chicken dinner, there is something for this writer in all of this.

Firstly, even if you’re the best breed, and the chosen one… the customer who provides all that chicken food might decide he prefers the rooster who doesn’t behave in a way the customer finds offensive… and crows about it. As customers come from all over the spectrum – unless you’re targeting a very section exclusively – being loudly partisan about something that is bound to offend a large chunk of your readers is not bright. There are of course people who are selling to their ‘side’ and they gain by this. But many TradPub authors are not. They’re just used to being the chosen ones. The last you may see of them –metaphorically speaking– is a severed foot hanging out of a Labrador’s mouth (said Labrador looking puzzled but determined). But it does go further. None of us are that great we can afford to think ourselves above peeving our buyers.

Secondly, I guess the moral is IF you’re doing well, shut up and enjoy it. You don’t have to tell second-place Sam about it every ten seconds. He knows.

And then the subject of art? Yeah, well… One man’s art is another’s pile of drawn chicken guts. It often seems to come down to how confidently the ‘artist’ claims his painting – or book, is art.

Or some people just like chicken guts.

So now you can tell me fowl stories, but no foul language. I’m chicken, and it’s no use egging me on.

49 Comments

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49 responses to “The cock crowed thrice…

  1. You’re making me miss having backyard chickens, Dave. And we had a huge flock. Free range. We had maybe five roosters to ten at any given time; they had tethers to their perches (the roosters were NOT free range; they would get stolen if they were; because they had feathering patterns that resembled the females, so were tricksy for the cockfighters. We raised them as pets, then for eggs. They were the ‘native’ chicken breed, some Texas (that’s what they were called) and a few bantams. When we had more than 140 chickens, we started occasionally culling. Yummy soups.

    The funny thing is, after a while, we wouldn’t wake to the cock crows any more. We got used to them.

    The ones with personality would be named. I miss having them perch on me, or come in for pets and cuddles.

    …Did someone show you a certain troll’s art? Because the later half of the post has me wondering. If not, good for you.

    • No, no troll art. 🙂 Just plucked and drawn chicken.

    • Timid1

      I miss the chickens about as much as I miss the hogs: I don’t. My father feels the same way about goats. It didn’t help that I’m allergic to feathers, but I never got as sick around the chicken as I did plucking dove and quail. It was my job to get the eggs. And feed the things. Us being a farm, “pet” livestock usually wound up in the freezer or the market, so when a particularly rooster got uppity, we were minus a rooster with nary a tear. If it had happened on our farm, we’d have agreed that Wilber was some pig as we passed the pork chops.
      I almost got some peacocks, though. We had a close neighbor how had some particularly loud roosters that would set off the dogs parking. Thought I’d give them a dose of a real noise maker. However, my wife, well acquainted with the noises peafowl make, squelched the idea.

      • B. Durbin

        My (suburban) family always had “pigs in a blanket” and my brother and I would decide one was Wilbur. It’s a common thing. 😀

    • I do not miss having chickens. Caring for them was a pain. If someone else did it, I wouldn’t mind, but me personally? Never doing it again.

      • I’ve got 3 Isa Brown x hi-lines and a mobile cage with a week’s water in it. ‘care’ = feed, pull the cage one length forward, collect eggs. Takes me less than 2 minutes a day. Lowest hassle animals I have ever kept. Pigs are more work.

  2. So I guess the rooster is no moa?

  3. I used to have chickens that were descended from the culls from a Mexican fighting flock. And they were tough (some lived past 10 years with no special care), and *mean*. They ran loose in my barnyard, ate bugs and rattlesnakes, raised a few chicks on their own, and did whatever they liked. Mostly they got along, occasionally they fought (the hens more than the roosters — once the roosters settled out who was boss among ’em, the trouble ended; hens would sometimes get uppity). A few thought they could get away with spiking me as well as each other.

    One of the underling roosters tried this — ran straight up to me, jumped up, spikes extended — I caught him in mid-air, gave him a good shake, set him on the ground, end of incident. Next time he got the notion, he ran straight up to me again, all puffed up and ready to fight, halted with one foot in the air — and I could hear him thinking, “Er, maybe not,” as that foot went back to the ground. Never had any more trouble with him.

    Couple of the hens got the notion too — but the hens would always run up *behind* me to do the dirty deed. And a little catch-and-shake didn’t deter ’em. Nope, I had to actually kick those hens good and hard to get the message across.

    There’s a lesson in here somewhere too. 😉

  4. Christopher

    Ya’ll might know (‘least have a better idear than I)…

    A couple areas I pass by while I’m running I’ve spotted a rooster here and there just straight-up chillin’ in a yard. It’s all sub-urbs, no “coops” that I can see nor anything farmish or farm-like.

    It’s the same homes, areas etc., and my years and years of not living on farms keep suggesting underground, high-dollar chicken fighting.

    • Uncle Lar

      Far more likely just a few folk with a taste for fresh eggs.
      Other than the noise the only real problem with keeping a few chickens is disposal of their end product.
      Grew up in midwestern corn country with most of the farms running feed lots. Use most of the corn and silage to feed up calves and sell the excess when there was any. But many of the farm wives ran small egg businesses on the side. Some of those attended our church and twice a year the church ladies would all pitch in during culling season. The ladies required a man to do the actual dispatch of the reject hens, then would process the birds into quart jars of canned stewed chicken. Oddly enough stewed chicken over biscuits was a staple at our church suppers.
      Same church ladies always catered the annual county cattlemen’s association dinner. Menu was always aged roast beef with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. I always prayed for snow and ice, as the ladies got to take any leftovers home with them.

      • Christopher

        Fertilized eggs taste gooder?

        I grew up Southern Baptist (prepared me to deal with crazy people) and the only thing I miss are the potlocks. I’m friggin’ starvin’ now…

        • No idea, but I remember a big food-quality scandal when I was in Germany in ’94 about someone (several someones) using fertilized eggs in pasta and in an egg-liquor that was apparently the hard drink of choice with the German alkies. Apparently it boiled down [sorry] to it being illegal to use fertilized eggs, rather than them harming the quality (?) of the final product.

  5. Timid1

    Usually roosters raised for fighting are staked close together, with individual tent-like structures for shelter. it’s illegal to fight chickens, but not – or wasn’t – illegal in these parts to raise them. Interesting thing, that.

    OTOH, there’s towns where chickens run wild, and some towns turn a blind eye to livestock in the city limits unless they’re a nuisance. Not the town where a few years ago some neighbors got their knickers in a bunch over a family who had a goat, so the cops came by and explained it was against a city ordinance. They went “Oh, okay,” and when the cops left proceeded to butcher it, which upset the neighbors even more.

    • Christopher

      Aaaand I’ve found a new way to harass my neighbors!

      Do they make good pets?

      I read on here that they’re ass-holes and read another where they go lookin’ for love.

      • Timid1

        They’re a-***** looking for love, with predictable results. Don’t think they make good pets at all. Never seen one as a pet. They’re larger than chickens, need to be penned, though people used to let them run loose, only the males have plumage, and they make an ungodly racket ranging from “Rawks!” to “Woowoowoowoowoo” like Curley on speed. People around here kept them for the peacock feathers and fad value, and that was all.

        Guinea fowl makes a racket, too: “Potrack! Potrack!” People used to keep them for eggs, meat, and burglar alarms.

        Much neater and less trouble than both are Purple Martins. Only maintenance are the houses. Purple Martins are good burglar alarms, too, and with make all sorts of commotion at strangers. I suspect they help control garden pests, and that, along with the reaction to strangers, may be why the Indians kept them. Think it’s too late in the year to put put martin houses and gourds.

        Thinking about putting up martin houses next year. I’ve wanted to try making martin houses out of large bleach bottles, but for some reason my wife isn’t keen on them hanging in the front yard.

        • Uncle Lar

          My grandfather kept a huge martin house in the back yard. Always carried out a running battle with the starlings that would attempt to take over and run the martins off. He loved birds and would sit at the kitchen table with his coffee and watch them at the feeder he placed just outside that window. Birds were off limits to my brother and me and our bb guns with the sole exception of starlings. Rabbits were fair game as they raided his garden, and squirrels he detested as he could never figure out how to keep them away from the bird feeder.

          • Timid1

            We once had a mockingbird hanging around who, when it saw a cat, would do a perfect imitation of someone whistling for the dogs.

      • Timid1

        Sorry. Thought you were talking about peafowl.

    • B. Durbin

      Fair Oaks is a chicken town. It’s not a proper trip to the old part of town unless you see a chicken. (Usually half a dozen at least of various breeds.)

    • That reminds me of a story…
      When I moved to California, I bought a house in the suburbs. One day I wake up to what sounds like a pig being butchered (it’s not a sound you forget, when they first kill the pig), right outside my window!
      I go outside, and on the other side of the fence (which is six feet from my bedroom window) my new Tong neighbors were now slaughtering the pig they’d just killed for a family BBQ.
      Great way to wake up at 7am on a Sunday morning. When I lived in the country, on a farm, I expected such things. But in the city of Sacramento?

      And the worst part was, they didn’t even offer me any 😦

      • I just had to listen to “Lucas McGraw” by Petra when I read what you said about the pig squeal.

      • B. Durbin

        Which suburbs? I’m from suburban Sacramento, myself. Large Vietnamese population in South Sac from the days of Vietnamese boat people (they’d get brought in through San Francisco and get sent up to farming country.) First generation: strawberry farmers. The second generation has a LOT of dentists.

  6. My daughter and I have just started keeping hens for eggs, this summer – we’d been thinking about it, and thinking about it, and then we saw the coop that we had been looking over for months at Sam’s Club go on sale for half-off. Three Barred Rock pullets from a place in Von Ormy, and half the back yard partitioned off for them … no eggs yet, but we expect them to start laying in September or so. It’s been a quietly growing thing – keeping back-yard chickens. The girls are getting to be quite sociable with us, and they are very quiet. One of our neighbors does have a larger flock, with a rooster, and boy, do you know it when he starts up.

  7. Timid1

    Coincidentally, I was thinking of just this issue today. Not chickens, but not cheesing off potential customers. Asimov was always gracious, and Heinlein – I think it was Heinlein – never flaunted some things in his life. These even saying “I’m a Christian” is going to get you scowls in some circles.

    The echo chamber effect doesn’t help, which I think is where some authors run afoul, for they don’t realize that their views is going to tick off a large group of people. Or they misinterpret their reader demographics and assume that the people they tick off don’t read them, anyway, and not realize they may be a significant segment of their customer base.

    A significant problem. as I consider building a “platform” to drum up sale. I’ve asked what readers am I trying to attract, which is more difficult in that what I hope to peddle runs from pre-YA on up, with no other agenda than to please readers and turn a profit. But that raises a question of what to use to build that platform, for politics and controversy is likely not to sit well with the pre-YA crowd and their parents.

    OTOH, while checking out what the pros are doing, I read a blog entry that put me off that particular author probably forever. I’m quite sure that he didn’t think it was all that controversial, and most likely it will be lauded by a significant portion of his fans. Really, we’re likely to tick off someone regardless of what we say and do, just as, in this instance, he did so with me.

    So where do we draw the line? Everyone who isn’t mentally ill censors themselves to a degree. The question is how much should we when dealing with the public?

    • My lines are politics and *ahem* recreational fornication and the politics occasionally associated with the behavior. I rarely cross those lines, although I will bump politics because it offers equal opportunity targeting – everyone is already irked with the campaigning for president, for example, no matter which shade of the political spectrum they prefer. Religion outside of historical and some technical aspects I also keep away from. Otherwise, I write about what I like, what catches my fancy, piques my interest, or seems odd. Thus far no one’s stormed off in a huff, aside from Cl@mps, and that’s doesn’t really count (I deleted a comment because he dumped a major series spoiler.) YMMV, IANA professional blogger, and so on.

    • You draw it by thinking about who you audience are. The problem many of the ‘pros’ have is they were the only game in town, and like the rooster, thought that was not a requirement. Basically most of the audience (the demographics say) is actually mildly conservative or moderate. Also these are the people having kids, and buying books for them.

  8. We had the same rooster problem. Our first home birth hatch, nine chicks, she ended up loosing all but two, to various hazards, both roos.
    They terrorized everyone as they got large, had to go. Too bad, so sad.
    We haven’t managed a second hatch. :o(

    I’ve been thinking about the alienating fans thing. Not that I have any yet or even anything for them to be fans of yet (just an embryo). If I muzzle myself, will I have anything left to post? dunno. I usually go for the shooting myself in the foot plan. I guess I’m too old to change now.

  9. Vastly enjoyed the rooster/chicken stories – such stuff is common to some people, but my chicken comes in packages from ShopRite.

    When I was a kid, eggs came from Mrs. Michaus’ trunk – she drove the eggs around that came from their farm someplace outside Mexico City. Eggs were kept in a wire basket on the counter, not in the refrigerator. Sorry, that’s as close as I get to ‘country.’

    And the only thing I’ve ever raised for food is broccoli and squash and green beans.

    Thanks for the chuckles of the day.

    But your lessons about mastering the simple things first apply to everything, especially in self-publishing.

  10. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I am deeply saddened by my not quite being in the right state to make the obvious inappropriate joke. You’ll know the one when the SJW whine about the post being a threat.

    I’ve missed too much sleep to drive, so I’d need someone to drive me across the border to Texas, and that isn’t happening today.

    I take it you haven’t worked out chicken nuggets yet?

    • Uncle Lar

      But somehow I have this hunch that a great many of the SJW sort have a deep personal relationship with the nether regions of a rooster.
      Not sure exactly why I feel that way, but as they say, feelings matter, so I’m sure it counts.

    • Timid1

      Does it involve “And the capons keep strolling along?”

  11. No matter how people sing the praises of goats, chickens, or such, I always remember the hardship of trying to find someone to herd the chickens in and out of the predator-proof coops, feed them, unfreeze the chicken waterer, milk the goats, etc. in order to run away for just two days on a trip.

    Not my hardship, except as much as I’ve been roped into the caring.

    I got back from Libertycon to find the parsley is trying to take over the world, the basil bolted, the tomatoes decided to ripen en masse and try to escape their cages, and the cucumber appears to have irritated a mummy, it’s so dessicated. And plants are slower than zombies… I would not want to try to travel if I had more than a cat.

    • Uncle Lar

      I hope you either can or freeze your excess produce. It’s either that or your neighbors get a windfall of the bounty.
      I got home to find that the first of the blueberries have ripened. Only have the five bushes, but from now through early august I can plan on a cup to a pint of fresh berries every day or so. Will feast on the fresh fruit until I get tired of it then freeze it for next winter.

    • B. Durbin

      “tomatoes… cages”

      As a Sac-o-tomatoes native, the idea of being able to use cages for tomatoes still seems strange to me. (Tomato cages are considered good for pepper plants around here, but the preferred way to cage tomatoes involves either custom staking builds that involve rebar or using wire grids designed for concrete pours. Cages… are far too small.)

      • Uncle Lar

        It’s one of those terminology things. What are commonly referred to as tomato cages are open mesh wire grids that wrap around a growing tomate plant and provide support as it gets taller and heavier as the fruit develops. The mesh needs to be wide enough to allow you to reach inside. Stakes do much the same job, but don’t allow for as much spread of growth so are considered less healthy for the plant.
        The main purpose is to lift the fruit out of the dirt where it can rot before it even ripens.

        • B. Durbin

          And around here, they need to be at least six feet tall. The stuff sold AS “tomato cages” at the garden stores are wimpy little things, and can’t take a Dr. Wyche or any of the standard local hybrids. That is, unless you want to order one of the heavy-duty types at $30 a pop. Much more cost-effective to build your own. The local gardening guru (“All gardening is local,”) likes to take something like this and cut it into sections that he can roll into cylinders. (He also lays it across the tops of raised garden beds as a means of keeping out cats—they don’t like tap-dancing through the feline equivalent of a cattle grid.)

  12. Arwen

    We keep hens for eggs. This year, we had a broody hen so we stopped by the local store, picked up four chicks and stuck them under the broody hen. The next morning, she had accepted them as her own and got mad when we tried to come near them. Having her raise them is much easier than when we tried to hand raise them.

  13. So did you go all roman and try to read your future from the entrails?

    Once upon a time when I was a inky schoolboy my best friend and I went hiking/rock climbing in Snowdonia over the half term break. His parents dropped us off at the campsite we’d chosen, which was a field belonging to a hill farmer, and we were to be left on our own for 4 days.

    Day 1 we got up and did our climbing and returned to discover that some fowl had got into our supplies that had been tucked under the flysheet and were now spread around the area. Fortunately the fowl chicken had mostly pecked at the wrappings and not made it into most of the food.

    Day 2 we stuffed all the food INSIDE the tent and left to do our hiking. On our return we discovered some fowl had unzipped the tent enough to get in and peck at the food and leave droppings. And this time had eaten/destroyed rather more food. We might be going hungry on day 4. Uh oh.

    Day 3 it was raining a lot so we decided to fester in the tent instead of venturing out and killing ourselves on slick rock or dying of hypothermia or somesuch. About 10am a chicken pokes its head into the tent. My friend grabs it and, before it could do much beyond a brief squawk, has wrung its neck. Half an hour of plucking gutting etc later and we have chicken bits heating up on the stove for stew. And sometime in the evening after the rain has stopped and the sun gone down, a little hole is dug near the drystone wall and all the nonedible chicken bits are deposited there and the hole filled in.

    Day 4 we take down our tent and settle the bill with the farmer. Farmer asks whether we’ve seen one of his chickens because one didn’t come back last night. Two inky school boys do their best innocent “we have no idea” look and hope we see the parental vehicle before too many additional enquiries can be made

  14. Holly

    Chickens!
    We’re having the last of the cockerels hatched out by a broody hen last summer (seriously: eight idiot chicks, one got killed playing in the dog’s yard, the other seven were cockerels–gives the roosters the evil eye) for dinner tonight, slow cooked in red wine. Been saving him.
    We’ve got a couple hens out there right now setting on what will hopefully be new layers, but might end up being dinners. Assuming they hatch.
    I am grateful that my husband butchers, and has taught one and a half boys to butcher.. He wouldn’t let me because I can’t stand the aroma of wet feathers and won’t eat chicken skin, which leads to the obvious solution, and he likes to eat chicken skin.
    Chickens are unrepentant bullies: we had the interesting dynamic of a rooster shift this spring–the three year old rooster, RooToo (so named because he was the backup to a rooster that got, most probably, eaten), had been the boss rooster. The two year old rooster, Top, decided it was his turn. RooToo had been meaner than sin, kept attacking the kids, and dumber than dirt, and in the process of attacking the kids got his spurs kicked right off. Top, who was a big baby, temper wise, figured he had his golden opportunity. At least he didn’t kill RooToo, but the old fellow is blind in one eye now and stays well away from Top and the kids. Even the hens picked on him for a bit until he got himself back together. Top has decided, as the new boss rooster, that it is his job to be meaner than sin and dumber than dirt. (Note, please, that the kids in question are both over five feet tall, pre-teen boys, and not in any danger from the roosters that they can’t handle. They’ve even showed them at the fair, because if you can handle a rooster on the show table and the other kids are only handling pullets and hens, you look really competent.)
    We didn’t used to keep a mean bird around, but RooToo had earned a stay of execution last summer when he put himself between the aforementioned idiot chicks and a young skunk. Top is treading on thin ice here: if he hops the fence and endangers the little kids he’ll be chicken stew, too.
    I hope for your friend’s sake that his rooster doesn’t change personalities on him.

  15. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    Well almost thrice. Remember that the customer might not take to it if you crow too much about things they aren’t buying