Tonight the smell of death hung over the cottage. The leaves on the trees have truly turned and have begun to gather, wind blown, around the edges of hedges and walls. On this cool autumn night we made the decision to cull the cockerels. For a few weeks now they have been crowing in the mornings, and crowing when the cats slink by the security lights, and crowing in the middle of the day as they try to imprint their dominance over each other. It doesn’t just stop with each other. For three weeks now the Rohde Island Red cockerel has been aggressively squaring up to me every time I step into the run to change the water. He sees me as the alpha, the big featherless one who brings the food. Although I do chuckle at him every time he does it, I do know that he could easily draw blood from me if I let him. Several times now I have had to take a stick in with me and slap it on the ground in front of him when he leaps forward for an attack. The other two cockerels, a breed called Light Sussex, are aggressive to each other but never to me. I have read that the Rohde Island Reds can be a feisty breed.
In class the topic of keeping chickens occasionally crops up and I try to explain that, with cockerels, it is like Highlander; there can be only one. The cultural reference is lost on them, but occasionally the 1980s film analogy gets a smile of recognition from a teaching assistant.
Tonight I took the metaphor of Highlander a little too literal and cut off two heads, leaving only one. There was no lightening and no ‘quickening’. Instead there was just the scent of blood hanging on the cold October air. Then there was the epic chore of the plucking and then the gutting. That wasn’t in the Highlander films.
The ‘one’ remaining cockerel was left feeling a little perplexed. I am certain he was the lowest ranking of the three of them as he is the one I have seen crowing the least and the one who seemed the most submissive. It’s not that I was rooting for the underdog, it’s just that the Rohde was the top of my list and of the other two cockerels he has the lightest. He survived because he was skinny and unappealing for the pot. Now he finds himself ruling the roost. I haven’t named the chickens, but I am considering giving him a name; Connor,Connor MacLeod of the Clan McLeod.