Downcast, dejected, disappointed, delflated, sad – I have never really thought about the origins of the word “crestfallen.”
Today, with the happening of one small event, I immediately realized not only the origin of the word, but also the true meaning.
The event was small only to me. In fact, I found it predictable. Not so to the rooster who has called our homestead home for most of his life. For him, the event was life changing, sudden, and far from predicted.
It started this morning. Everything was quiet. The snow seems to muffle and amplify sound at the same time, if that is possible. Even the slightest sounds seem to carry for miles. However, there is no sound from the rustling of leaves on the ground; no sound from birds hunting through the underbrush looking for little nuggets of nutrition.
Soon after I woke, I realized that I had not heard the roosters crowing. I found that odd. Moments later, another oddity – something was wrong in the chicken tractor. The noise made me think that something had gotten inside it and was attempting to have chicken or duck – egg or meat – for breakfast. I jumped up and ran out to the porch. The squawking stopped. From the porch, I could see no tracks in the snow leading to the tractor. There were no obvious holes in the “armor”. I fed the ever hunger stove. I went back to the warmness of my hastily vacated bed while the stove went back to warming up the cabin.
A short time later there was another ruckus from the chicken tractor. I once again climbed out of bed. I donned my boots and heavy jacket. The heavy jacket was even heavier than usual as I slipped the Smith and Wesson .380 into it. I figured if something was in with the chickens, the .380 would dispatch the problem if it came to that.
I also picked up a bucket of chicken feed and a half gallon of water. I figured I might as well feed them during my investigation.
The birds were much quieter than usual as I approached. The ducks wouldn’t quack back at me when I goaded them. No clucking from Donna Henley. No crowing from the roosters. I dumped the food in. One of the roosters came running and barely beat Henley to the food. I squatted and could see the two ducks. The other rooster was in the corner with the water, and under the door to the tractor.
When I lifted the door, I could see that the rooster wasn’t himself. Instead of its usual bright red, the rooster’s crest and the skin around his face was black. The feathers around his neck were ruffled, some partially pulled out. I realized at that point, the noise I had heard was the roosters fighting. The black coloring was blood. I tried to rationalize that it was just a squabble, and that everything would be ok.
But the rooster didn’t seem to think so. Neither of the roosters have ever been friendly, but this guy was suddenly my best friend. His other friends were eating and drinking, but he was keeping an eye on me and the other rooster. I gathered up some eggs, shut the door, and headed up the hill. My intention was to get a crate to put the rooster in so that I could assess his injuries.
Crate in hand, I headed back down the hill. I could hear the roosters fighting again. When I opened the door, my newest friend was there waiting on me. There were also a few fresh splashes of blood thrown around the tractor. It looked like someone had hit something with a meat cleaver. I scooped the battered rooster up and put him in the crate. He didn’t put up much of a struggle. I had expected some. We haven’t handled these birds in months.
He resigned himself to the crate rather quickly. He was exhausted and scared. And probably hurting. He looked deflated. I’m not sure if he understood the implications or not. I can’t help but think that if he didn’t understand, then he would have been much more agitated.
I took the rooster, and therefore his crate, inside. I hooked up a waterer and gave him fresh bedding and some food. I contacted Jennifer and my sister – she’s been raising chickens for almost 2 decades – to find out what I needed to do. The consensus was to put him back in the tractor and let the two male birds work it out. I was a little apprehensive, but I eventually trudged on back down the hill. I put the rooster back in the tractor.
The other rooster went after him immediately. The less aggressive of the two stuck his head in a corner. The aggressive one was beating him up but good. I pushed it off of the timid rooster, but he went back immediately. It was one sided fight. The aggressive rooster didn’t have a scratch on him. I pulled the timid bird out, all the time fighting the other rooster off.
So, the rooster is in the cabin with us, temporarily at least. He’s a good houseguest, for the most part. He pecks around in his crate. Every now and then, he crows. Then the other rooster starts in. Long distance communication, bird style. The time in between crows seems variable and random to me, but I’m sure it makes sense to the birds. It doesn’t make sense to Helo either. Helo was just blasted from a deep sleep by a rather loud and high pitched crow. He jumped up and looked at me. He ended up putting his head, ears, and tail down as he slinked as far away from the rooster as he could get.
Now, I have to figure out what to do with the roosters. I’m thinking that I should finish the coop and put it in the bigger “tractor”, which is really a movable pen with a top on it. Maybe with more space they wouldn’t feel the need to fight. Maybe they still would and it would just be harder for me to get to them.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I feel a little crestfallen myself.