Sunday, July 28, 2002

Sunshine was introduced as a runt, when I bought him at the feed store, and dropped in to a brown paper sack with the other chicks. He was certainly the smallest of the four chicks, and the only one that was classically chick-like; downy, butter yellow and round. Alex was immediately smitten and he was the one to christen the chick 'Sunshine.'

Sunshine was at the end of the pecking order, and always lagged behind in the quest for bugs and seeds. Daily we watched the subtle changes and progress that each chick made. Luna soon developed her white spots, and lost the one white 'moon' on her bottom. Gracie's wild and wispy feathers became more tempered, but no less colorful. Rosie grew and matured, but she was soon passed up by our 'runt.' And then it was clear that even Gracie would lose her standing as biggest chicken. Sunshine was outgrowing them all, and acquiring some unique characteristics. Sunshine was getting bossy, and walking with more assertion than before. All the chickens had lost their 'cheep, cheep, cheep,' but only Sunshine's 'cluck' was rusty and raspy.

The boys make daily accounts of their chicken's activities and developments. They hug them and pet them, and collect pincher bugs for their chickens to devour. Many evenings we hang out by the coop, watching the sun set, counting blossoms on the guava bushes and observing the roost time routines of the 'Chicas.' We hoola hoop, and pull weeds. We feed the rabbits and watch for the first star, the brightest planet. Then the coyotes whine and sing in the valley below, and the bats begin to flit and dart, so we close the coop for the night.

The very same day that Luna produced her egg, Sunshine assumed a new trait; he became territorial and huffy. I warned the boys, "He needs reminding that you are higher in rank than he is. Pat him on the head if he gets too pushy." Alex can still hold him, sometimes, and we still coo at all of them and pamper them, but all of our affection is lost on Sunshine. He is becoming more and more cantankerous and belligerent. He postures and threatens and pursues. He pecks at unarmed toes, and has begun to jump, spurs extended.

I suppose it is quite plain that Sunshine feels his duty very deeply, but I feel mine too. I can't keep an 'attack bird' on the premises, and so far we haven't persuaded the rooster that he 'needs to take his attitude down a few notches.' Nacho and Victor say, "He's dinner now. That'll teach him!" William wants to keep him confined to the coop, and Alex wants us to "try everything we can, but please don't get rid of Sunshine. He's my favorite." Oh dear. We are face to face with emotional farmer decisions.

Unless there is a method for taming our wily Sunshine, we may have to trade him in; find him a new home. We'll find him a Rooster Retirement Ranch, with plenty of fresh air, running water, great mash and spry hens. Some place where a cock can be a cock.

No comments: