A nomad mother in Singapore

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Not so Scruffy




He struts around the run as if he owns the place, not I. Whenever I enter, he keeps a shrewd eye on me, ideally positioning himself between his harem and me. I have learned never to turn my back to him. He might look plucky, but he always attacks from the back.

Scruffy is the youngest in the flock, yet about double the size of the hens. His head is crowned by a magnificent, bright red, comb, flanked by equally impressive wattles. When he was a few weeks old his feathers poked in all directions. A pineapple chick, Indah laughed, and Roel aptly named him Scruffy. When he started to grow at an alarming rate, and his comb became suspiciously big and red, it became more obvious day by day: Scruffy was a boy. 



A few days old, and still scruffy

Of course roosters are pretty useless when you keep chickens for eggs. In fact, this batch of hatchlings we had been fairy lucky; out of four chicks, Scruffy was the only boy.


Scruffy at a few weeks, comb starting to show

Scruffy grew up not so scruffy at all. His long white tail feathers arch up elegantly from his back, and the golden ones on his neck contrast brightly with the red of his comb. His favourite position is on top of a stool, towering even more high over the ladies, from which he will crow – all day long.

Since his testosterone has kicked in, Scruffy and I have been at a standoff. If I come bearing food he accepts me, grudgingly. Do I merely to come by to look for eggs, he will eye me suspiciously until I leave. I feel his eyes piecing my back when I look in the hen house for eggs.

A few times he has confronted me, high on his haunches, his neck feathers upright, but even in this position his impressive chicken size is nothing to my human one. But I have seen the spurs grow on his legs, and have no wish to test their sharpness.

So one or twice a week I show him who’s boss. I grab him, and push him to the ground firmly, all the time telling him I’m in charge, not him. Roel has dunked his feet in ice water for a similar face losing session. Afterwards, Scruffy retreats in a corner, licks his offended feathers and shakes his wattles. He behaves himself for a few days, until his cockiness rears again. He can’t help it. He is an eight-month-old cockerel.

The big question is, can he stay living with us? Since he attacked Tijm, the kids refuse to collect eggs. But what to do with him? Linde bawls when we suggest turning him into coq-au-vin like predecessor Messi. Indah suggests releasing him to go and live with the wild junglefowl, but will he manage there? Once, when I accidentally left the door of the run open he showed a wild rooster - half his size - all corners of the garden. But unlike them, he can’t fly for the safety of the trees at night. Is it better that we eat him, or the pythons? Or will he be successful, but mess up the gene pool of the endangered junglefowl with his hybrid features?

To be honest, Scruffy is an arrogant bastard, and I am not sure even the hens like him and his aggressive romantic advances, but still, I hesitate to kill him. I have seen him break out of his egg, grow into the insecure adolescent he is now. We know he can’t stay, we have been talking about it for weeks. Yet here he still is. He is so gorgeous.




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