Rural Living Blog by Rob Shackleford
Author of the Traveller Series
Brooster and the Chooks
We have made the decision … we are leaving life by the beach in beautiful Burleigh Heads and are heading west to a more rural lifestyle. Things here are just getting a little too hectic.
One of the best things about living in a rural of semi-rural setting is the opportunity to own and care for chickens – or chooks as we call them.
Chooks are brainless, silly creatures that can be truly lovely and entertaining. At a previous property my kids used to hug and carry them, so the silly creatures became quite spoiled. We particularly love when they are first let loose in the morning, when they race across the yard like ladies in baggy bloomers with dresses held high.
When I was a kid, we had a chicken run. We used to amuse ourselves by catching grasshoppers and tossing them to the chooks to be eagerly gobbled up. One chook would grab the hapless insect and they would race away, pursued by all of the others.
Being mischievous young lads, we decided to try the chooks with tiny fire-crackers called Tom Thumbs. They were so small they could be held between fingers where they would pop harmlessly. Sure enough, once tossed in, the firecracker would be grabbed by a chook to run, actively pursued by its fellows. It would then pop and vanish, to have the victor shake her head in confusion. That was until the next firecracker was tossed into the run and it would all start again.
Our chooks lived a charmed life. When one of my kids would let them out, they would race to graze on the grass and then make a beeline for the cat food. Once that was completely gone, they would rest in their favourite sand wallow. Whenever I dug in the garden they would risk decapitation with the spade as I dug to reveal worms which they would dive for.
I must admit I was, perhaps, a little careless as the girls, as we knew them, sometimes wandered onto the road that ran past our property. On a couple of occasions we would retrieve a hapless chook whose head had been pancaked by the occasional traffic.
Another issue was how chooks are tasty little critters. On one occasion we arose to find all of them gone. All that remained were neat piles of feathers. The crazy chicken lady from whom we bought our chooks told us it was foxes.
Another time we heard cries of chicken panic in the night. I turned on spotlights and ran down the yard, clapping to hopefully scare off any fox that might have broken into our new and improved chook-run. A large, gorgeously-patterned carpet snake sat calmly in the midst of the panicked girls, her mouth full of black feathers. She would normally secure a hold and then constrict the poor chook until it was dead and squeezed into a neat tube the snake could swallow whole. I ended up poking the snake with my finger to make her reluctantly slide away, mouth still full of feathers. Whenever she would pause, I gave her another little poke to hurry her along.
Generally the chooks had a charmed life, that was until two things: the ducks, and Brooster.
As our property included a small lake, called a dam, we had to include ducks. A small group of Indian Runners that would dash across the lake with a ‘quack, quack, quack’ whenever the morning feed was delivered. Food scraps and a grain mix were delivered as the male duck would barge in, pushing the girls aside to scoff the grain and sneeze until they ate the best grain. Once done, the ducks would dash back to the water to browse for insects and frogs amongst the water weed and sacred lotus.
That daily ritual changed with the arrival of Brooster, the Rooster.
One morning, Brooster made his appearance. He strode across our property like he owned it. He was a handsome fellow with his speckled grey plumage and bright red comb. Tall and proud, I suspect someone dumped him there. He took to minding our girls like he had always been the boss, pausing in his careful scrutiny to grab a juicy bug or jump on any of the girls for a quick shag that would leave them fluffed and shaking their head before returning, none the worse, to their browsing.
In the morning, when the ducks barrelled through the cluster of girls, they met something unexpected. Brooster! As the male duck pushed for his rightful access to the best food, Brooster lifted his clawed foot and thrust the duck’s head to the ground. He then took a sharp peck at the top of the male duck’s head, lifted his beak full of white feathers, and then pecked again. The male duck was pinned to the ground, eyes wide in a ‘what the hell?’ look. When finally released, he dashed in panic with his harem, back to the safety of the dam.
Brooster stood proudly, briskly shook the feathers from his beak and then jumped onto one of the girls for good measure.
He proved what a real beast he was when he met Molly, my son’s shaggy dog. Molly looks just like the children’s book character Hairy MaClary and, on seeing Brooster, she identified a source of limitless fun. She ran to the rooster in what we called a Tie Fighter move, zooming in and away so fast the bird had no chance of responding. After a few minutes of such hilarity, Molly sat with her big grin, completely satisfied at her superiority. She did not realise she had her back to Brooster, or see his head go down as he ran at her.
Molly screamed as the rooster’s spurs raked down her back.No, Brooster was not to be messed with.
So it was Brooster 1, Molly 0.
But Brooster had his failings. He was a rooster, so crowed. My neighbours, a few hundred metres away, said he crowed from 3am.
So, I tried to rectify this, but was pretty shit at it.
One morning I ran down to the chook house and tied an old t-shirt to Brooster’s head, thinking his covered eyes would stop the crowing, but he crowed, even with the t-shirt tied in a knot.
Then I tried placing him into a cardboard box so he couldn’t raise his head, but I could hear his crows, even from within the box.
Despite my repeated efforts my neighbour’s mood and threat to report me to the local Council by-law officers to collect poor Brooster eventually had me swap him to another crazy poultry lady for a couple of Muscovy ducks.
And they are another story.
About the author:
Rob Shackleford is the author of a number of novels, though so far Traveller Inceptio is published by Austin Macauley. Please check out the latest reviews for Traveller Inceptio on Amazon or at the publisher web site:
Deb Mackay is a yoga teacher and wise woman.
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