Saturday, February 16, 2008

Just 'Cuz You're Mortally Wounded

The Banties
Copyright Ken Harris 2007

When we lived in El Monte, California in 1960 we had, among our horses, dogs, cats, and chickens, two banties, a rooster and a hen. They added color and class to our yard and were permitted to range in the flower beds because their little banty feet wouldn’t do much damage to the plants as the birds foraged for insects and grubs. Every now and again the rooster would find someone especially delicious and he would make his special cluck and his hen would come running.

One day someone, I can’t remember who, gave us a fighting cock with a broken wing. I wasn’t really too anxious to have a super alpha male on the premises, but Joanne seemed to think well of the idea. I wonder if she was trying to tell me something? Oh, well, it’s too late now.

We threw the fighting cock over the 2x6-lined-with-chicken-wire fence that separated the chicken and horse area from the rest of the property that was reserved for dogs, cats and humans. The game cock lost no time in seeking out our banty rooster and engaging him in battle. The banty had no chance, even with the game cock fighting with a broken wing. So the banty hen leaped in to help her rooster. Even so, the both of them would have been defeated. But we intervened, deciding that if the hen preferred her own rooster to the super alpha, we wouldn’t interfere.

So the game cock was captured, isolated, and the next day passed on to someone in the neighborhood who needed law and order in his henhouse. Game cocks insist that if there is going to be any fighting done, he is going to participate. Non-game cocks quickly decide they would rather watch television instead. The neighbor was pleased with his orderly henhouse.

Shortly after this episode, our banty hen disappeared only to reappear a few weeks later with a clutch of chicks in tow. She proudly led her little disciples around the yard, showing them the best places to peck and scratch.

But just as her chicks were thinking about sprouting feathers, a neighborhood animal, possibly wild, mauled her badly one evening. He was probably looking for dinner, but he didn’t get any for he failed to kill the hen. Instead he tore her side open almost down to the entrails. She lay be the side of a fence in severe shock, her internal plumbing visible through a single layer of skin, her chicks around her wondering what was wrong with mama. We figured that was the end of the hen and hoped the rooster would be up to single parenthood.

But that’s not the end of the story. The hen survived. She got well. The next day she was back leading her flock. She couldn’t die. She was too busy. Her chicks needed her. Her wound jerked over like dried beef and within the week, her feathers grew back and she was as good as new.

The lesson the chicken taught is just because you’re mortally wounded doesn’t mean you have to die.

No comments: