to know a rooster

nick killed red hawk wednesday night. red hawk is...was...a rooster. not a hawk. but he had hawkish tendencies since he was a wee thing. he always jumped about like a zealous, unsteady, ninja. as though life was too exciting and scary and fun.  he was one of five little chicks that our mama hen raised in north carolina. he looked awkward at first. most young roosters look awkward before they gain that dignified pomp.  so, red hawk, was awkward. much taller than his sisters. with sickeningly bright yellow chicken legs.

the first time red hawk crowed nick and i were there to see it. it was just morning in massachusetts and we had let the chickens out. involuntarily this prepubescent crow spilled out of red hawk. it startled him. he jumped. as he was prone to jump with any unexpected noise or motion. his own squeaky roar...had scared him. it was oddly adorable and simultaneously embarrassing. watching this little chicken enter into roosterhood.

rather unfortunately, for all involved, the crow was just the start to red hawk becoming a Rooster. next came the mounting. it was...natural, as is with any animal's instinct to breed and red hawk took to this instinct with an appaling vigor. but you see...nick and i weren't the only ones that thought red hawk's feet too yellow or his crow too unsure or his bounciness too distracting. the hens, for the most part, did not take kindly to his mounting. and it became clear that there was little that was consenual occuring between red hawk and the hens. 

monsieur, we know as a fierce rooster, who runs a Tight Ship, was very clearly going to kill red hawk. ((if you aren't familiar with monsieur's murderous ways, stay tuned for next week's installment of: To Know a Chicken.)) he spent most mornings, afternoons, and evenings of the past weeks chasing the poor bird all round. there are standards in the chicken world of what makes a good rooster. and it is my saddened duty to say that red hawk did not have It. 

he was sentenced to death repeatedly by nick in the week preceding last. every morning nick would tell me; i'm going to kill that chicken.  he didn't mean it in the exasperated, figurative way most would have meant it. he meant that he needed to kill red hawk. before he broke one of the hen's legs or backs with his vigor. before monsieur mangled him. before he inadvertently hurt one of the baby chicks in his frenzied way.

and so, wednesday night, nick killed red hawk. he and our fearless friend brian went out into the dark of night took red hawk and another noname rooster --whose history is just as important though unknown-- and slaughtered the poor beasts. 

at first i was distraught. it should come as no surprise that i, without apology,  anthropomorphize every barnyard being and thus take each bump, bruise, and death, without ease or grace.

then i was greedy. i asked nick why he hadn't saved red hawks tail feathers as they were so handsome. 
then i was hungry. and had some rooster stew. 

and now i am grateful. grateful for having a partner who can remove his feelings from the barnyard and make difficult choices based on what is Best for the Whole. grateful for red hawk. for giving us our first taste of chicken in nearly 6 months. grateful for our whole little barnyard circle of life and death.


  1. this was so wonderful to read. i would have such a hard time working on a farm for this exact reason! i grow attached to any and all animals, no matter how harmful they can be to one another. i don't have a good idea of the bigger picture. at all.
    so cool to read this and feel the humanity behind a farm. what you both do is so incredible. thank you for sharing red hawks story ♥
    sad that he wasn't good at being a rooster, but glad i got to learn about him.


  2. Nice tale, well told. (Go Nick!)

  3. Ok, I'm going to expose myself as being completely naive, but does rooster meat taste different than that of a hen?? I imagine it to be more stringy or "gamey"...

  4. thank you for telling red hawks story... i think i love him. it is a familiar story to us as well... we had our own flock of chickens for a time, and hope to again when we find land. i fell in love with our rooster "nigella", our blue cochin who was a late bloomer. i thought he was a hen because he never crowed, and then i walked out to the coop one day and found him mounting a hen. then his low, raspy crow followed. the hens had mixed feelings about him but, oh how i loved that rooster.
    i tend to get my heart a little tangled up in matters like this. lucky for you, you have nick. and lucky for me i have steve, and my grandma verlie, who told me how to butcher a chicken if i should ever need to.

  5. You have told the story of farm life well. It is hard work and can sometimes be difficult work as well. I appreciate your honesty in wanting to claim the red feathers. I thought about those as well as I imagined the rooster. I look forward to you sharing more.

  6. @leelee rooster meat is a bit more game-y than hen. it is tougher. but that goes for all truly free range, non-cornish cross (raised exclusively for meat in confinement) birds. the more those muscles move the tougher their meat gets. the less plump their breast is etc...

    rooster stew is the way to go. you get all of that flavor and you can cook it down to make stock. yum.


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