The chicken dance

I’ve had a problem with my rooster. Regular readers might recall that when we got our chickens last year, I ended up with two roosters in the batch. My neighbor took the bigger of the two, and I kept the more interesting-looking Polish. Of course — with my typical luck — my neighbor’s rooster is sweet and docile, while my Albert has turned out mean-spirited and vicious. I thought Albert might turn out well because he is smaller than all of the hens, and I hoped they would keep him in line. Instead, he must have some type of Napoleon complex, trying to make up in attitude what he lacks in size.

It would be bad enough if Albert picked on his girls, but he was also picking on me — literally! He would wait with near glee for me to enter the chicken yard to refill the water and food and collect the eggs. Once I closed the gate behind me, Albert would come forward to attack — and his routine was quite the thing!

You see, Albert is nothing if not predictable. Sneaking up on me and catching me unaware was just not his style. Even when he hid behind the chicken coop door, once he was ready to attack, he would still fall into his routine. First, he’d do a bit of a dance, puffing up his feathers to make himself look bigger. Then he would wait several seconds for my response. Whether I did anything or not mattered little to Albert, since the next step was always the same — he would attack, jumping into the air and coming at me with legs (and spurs) extended, flapping, pecking, and vocalizing for all he was worth!

At first I thought Albert was just bored, so I let him get away with the routine for a few days — until it became obvious that he was going for my face. Over and over, I would swat him out of the air as he came at me. I had to try some other way to convince him that he mustn’t attack me, so I went to plan B.

I started carrying a plastic dustpan into the chicken yard to help me swat him away as he charged. It did make the swatting part safer, since my hands were no longer in contact with the chicken, but it still didn’t end the whole business. Eventually, plan B morphed into plan C: the chicken dance.

One day, as Albert finished his dance and awaited my reply before attacking, I thought that perhaps if I spoke his chicken language, he would realize that I am the bigger chicken. As soon as he finished, I did my own chicken dance, shuffling my feet and flapping my arms to make myself appear really big. I don’t think any of the neighbors saw me, but it occurred to me that it would look pretty senseless when viewed from afar. Yet because I wanted Albert’s behavior to stop, I danced. The interesting thing was that as I shuffled, Albert was totally spellbound, watching my feet and waiting for an on-the-ground attack. As I ended my dance, instinct took over and I swatted at him from above to initiate our war — and the attack caught him totally unprepared. Unfortunately, plan C didn’t fare much better than plans A and B; he still attacked me the next day and the day afterwards, actually puncturing my leg in two places. That’s when I went to the likely final plan, D: the dance and chase.

Three days ago I decided that if Albert didn’t straighten up, he was toast, er, soup.  I was tired of being attacked by this minuscule chicken, and I decided that perhaps he was confused because I let him continue to attack me. As a result, when I entered the chicken yard, I was prepared for his attack. He danced first, then paused for my reply. I then danced my own chicken dance, flapping my arms and really putting on a show and then attacked once again by bopping him from above. This had all been done before, and he knew it. What he didn’t expect was that when he started after me, I swatted him down onto the ground and then ran after him, dancing and squawking all the while. Every time he stopped, I’d swat at him so that he would again have to run away from what looked like a concerted and continuing attack.

The hens sensibly ran for the coop in the very beginning, so Albert and I were alone in the chicken yard. Around and around we ran, Albert in the lead and me following behind. Every time he stopped, I attacked, with arms flapping and voice crowing out to the world that I was the King Chicken. After several stops, continued attacks, and more running, I finally ended the chase. It was obvious that he’d had enough — Albert had finally agreed that I was the biggest chicken of the yard. He no longer looked at me but instead kept his head averted. His whole demeanor had changed. Albert seemed to be a new chicken.

It’s been several days since the big chicken dance, and Albert has not come after me again. Will this leave a lasting impression on my little Napoleonic rooster? I have no idea. But if it can keep me from being attacked and Albert from the stew pot, even if only for a limited number of days, then it was surely worth it! Watch your back, Albert!

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