Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Rookyard, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where chicken blood makes chicken feet unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of cross patched cockerels take their life;
Whole misadventured piteous cock crows
Do with their death bury their poor flocks' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd fight,
And the continuance of their harangued flocks' rage,
Which, but their cockerel's end, nought could put to flight,
Is now a moments' traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.…
My flock, as you will no doubt have realised, roosts in two quite separate areas of the farm. Both used to intermingle, pass the time of day, scratch at the same patches and generally get on with each other.
Not so two Summers ago. Due to a gradual reduction in the number of hens caused by illness, old age, crossing the road and Mr Foxy Fowler; there was a great need to cull the cockerels – if just for the sanity of those poor remaining hens who would dart from nest to nest as surreptitiously as possible to avoid the avid attentions of their lustful cousins, brothers, fathers and sons.
Thus dispatched; there remained two cocks to crow. Pitt the Younger – a feisty little but rather beautiful bantam of about four years and Big Boy, an extremely handsome Leg Bar cross cockerel of a somewhat startling stature compared to the majority of the bantams on the farm.
All seemed fine; then one morning there was the most almighty hullabaloo; I dashed down from my study, grabbed a suitable looking weapon - turned out to be an umbrella – and prepared to take on any vulpine enemy.
My neighbour, Roger, also came running and to our amazement we witnessed the most savage and vitriolic fight I have ever encountered. Quite literally feathers, blood and gore flew. The outcome of which, was that as far as we could see, Big Boy had won the day.
All should have been settled. But as the course of that summer wore on, I could not but notice that there was more scuffles and general upheaval than before. The two flocks avoided each other; and from the upstairs window you could watch them taking great pains to ensure that they never met during the day.
The Hen Hut became quite empty and it was then that I realised that despite that seminal fight, Pitt the Younger was winning the war. Big Boy had stopped crowing and was reluctant to even come out of the Hen Hut.
But power or absolute power, has the ability to corrupt – absolutely. And after finding myself stalked as an enemy by my pint sized cockerel, there could only be one outcome. Pitt the Younger, for his overtly aggressive ways, would have to be dispatched to the great farmyard in the sky.
The day dawned, the deed was swift. All done and dusted or was it?
Despite the relief afforded to the hen community; Big Boy was clearly not all right. He still refused to come out of the hut. He was still reluctant to crow. And one balmy August evening, I noticed that his breathing was laboured. A visit to the vet confirmed my worst fears and Big Boy joined Pitt the Younger in the vast beyond. During some fight in the previous weeks the bantam had inflicted a fatal kick to Big Boy causing a rupture from which his decline was to be inevitable. So beyond the grave Pitt the Younger killed my handsome gentle giant. And all at once the farm was cockereless.
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
For never was a story of less joy
Than this of Pitt and my Big Boy.
Luckily, in the course of nature there is NEVER a lack of cockerels for long and to fill in the gap Ollie and Stanley came to roost - Arcana/Leg Bar cross brothers. They roam the farm and keep down the uppity youngsters. Culling takes place every Autumn/Early Spring and all is calm - on the surface. But who knows with chickens?