Oh, these chickens….

It’s late afternoon at the Marx place and time for the dogs to come inside for their nap while the chickens are out to roam, eat, peck and poop. And it’s time to gather the daily egg.

But first – I have to laugh at ol’ Blackie.

Blackie is our ENORMOUS rooster. He’s impressive in both stature and plumage – much more so, in fact, than his name would imply. When the light hits him just right, you see every shade from the deepest blue to the brightest green shimmering throughout his tail. Golden highlights accentuate his wings and his head is crowned with a most glorious comb and handsome wattle.

Oh he’s good lookin’ all right.
And he knows it!

Blackie first came to live with us among a mix-matched set of chicks we brought home this summer. Even before the chicks lost their down, he stood out from the flock – bigger, stronger, just MORE…. My husband would positively crow himself every time he saw Blackie amongst the chicks. “Would you look at him?? Now that has GOT to be a rooster? Just look at how he carries himself! Yep. Rooster. No doubt.”

Young Blackie turned out to be a strong one, too. Our fledgling flock took hit after hit – and before we knew it, we were down to 3: 1 speckled hen, 1 ginger rooster, and none other than the biggest rooster of the bunch — Blackie.

Blackie was the first to crow — of course.
He moved quickly through the “cat-locked-in-the-closet” phase to a full on COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOOOO!
Our poor ginger boy tried with all his might to compete, but just couldn’t quite rise to the challenge.

We made arrangements with a friend to swap out our ginger boy for another hen — and that’s when it got interesting!

The new hen to our henhouse was a feisty young thing – just a little older than our chickens – and far more (ahem) mature.
…and Blackie liked that maturity.

A lot.

A whole, whole, WHOLE lot.

Blackie chased that poor hen all over the yard.
He became quite the cocky young man – if you will – and he did so with gleeful abandon.

The hen, however, was not impressed. She did anything and everything in her power to stay AWAY from this swaggering paragon of fowl masculinity. She would, quite literally, fly the coop to get away from his advances. While this may, on one hand, seem like a fairly smart thing to do – remember those dogs who are taking a nap as we speak???

And so — before long, we loaded up this now tired little lady and took her back to her previous home and AWAY from the unwanted overtures of young Blackie.

Remaining in our flock: Blackie and the speckled hen.

And Blackie had not yet learned his lesson.

At feeding time, he pushed the hen away and ate the best of the best.
At “yard time,” he rushed through the gate and sought out all the biggest grasshoppers – again keeping the best to himself.
At night time, he roosted in the middle of the boxes, leaving just a smidgeon of room for his coop-mate.

Finally, she had had enough as well.
On a gray day, she took flight and flew up and over the fence to see what was on the other side.
Sadly, she met our pups….

But the story doesn’t end there.
Remember – this is a lesson in relationships!

A week or so later, my husband came home with a potential mate for Blackie.
It’s another mature ginger hen – and this time, she’s greeted by a kinder, gentler Blackie.

At first he tried his usual tricks – showcasing his crow, strutting his stuff, fluffing his feathers….

She was NOT impressed.

Then he started finding the bugs and calling her over…
And sheltering her much smaller body from the cool winter winds…
And standing guard for his lady when she drank from the pond….

In short, he stopped putting himself first and started caring for another.
And boy-oh-boy did it ever pay off.

Every morning we awake to the cheerful crow of young Blackie – answered by the good-natured cackling of his hen.
He steps aside to let her through the gate – and won’t go on without her.
At night, the love-birds are nestled together, with her smaller body tucked under his wing.
The soft sounds of chicken whispers – almost like coos – carry across the yard as they settle in for the night.

And, yes, he’s still a cocky son-of-a-gun.

But Blackie has learned what we all must learn: The secret to good relationships, it seems, is to share the fattest grasshoppers and offer shelter from the storm. Or in other words: Putting others first and caring for their needs, makes our world a much better place — a place with an egg a day!