Friday 8 September 2017

Poor Scruffy

We’ve been on the fence about Scruffy for a long time. Last Sunday, I heard loud cackling from the coop. Always worried about pythons, I rushed over to see a large brown shape, most likely an eagle, flapping away from a branch on the tree overhead. Inside the run, Scruffy was standing on top of a stool, cawing at the top of his voice. All the hens were inside, in the henhouse. I felt so proud of my dapper cockerel protecting his ladies, that I forgot his vileness for a while.

But not for long, because eagles were not the only thing Scruffy was protecting his ladies against. The next morning, when I left the run and forgot to walk out backwards, or look into his eyes admonishingly, he attacked me from the back immediately. Thankfully, I managed to slam the door right into his sharp beak, but needless to say, I did not particularly want to go back in again after. I was not alone in being less than amused with his temper that morning: through the wire mesh I observed Scruffy chasing the girls all across the run, in a way I was not sure was meant to be romantic, but in any case was pretty violent, and not at all appreciated by the ladies.

Roel said we had to do something, and we had to do it now. Scruffy, obviously, had other ideas about that, and we spent a good fifteen minutes chasing him around the garden – that roo can run! I won’t get into details about what happened after, it suffices to say nobody enjoyed it, but it was swift and yes, the rumours about headless (or broken-necked in this case) chickens are very much true.

Some people might find it distasteful that I post a photo of my stewed rooster, but you know what, many of my friends post photos of their food on social media, including fowl, fried, roasted, cooked, or with rice. Do you know what I find distasteful? Industrial, or broiler, chickens that are raised by the tens of thousands in windowless barns, that grow so fat so quick they can’t walk, that have wounds on their legs from sitting in their own manure all day, and that are cooped up so tightly together they peck each others backs bold from boredom and frustration, with an aggression that exceeds Scruffy’s on his worst days. The air they breathe full of ammonia and faeces, makes them suffer from respiratory illnesses. There is more to say about that, but I think you get the picture.

Having kept chickens for years now, I know what sociable animals they are, how they like to dig in the sand, climb on roofs and benches, and huddle up comfortably together. Chickens are fairly stupid, but not stupid enough to endure what is happening in those industrial farms.

So yes, we kill and eat our own rooster, who grew up pampered in a large run, with six wives, and plenty of food, fresh air, sand and clean water. And yes, I proudly present this lovely dish of ‘Rooster in Prosecco’ (well, we happened to have an open bottle, and were out of red wine). And I have to admit, Scruffy was much nicer stewed than he was in real life.