Wednesday, January 18, 2012

R.I.P. Rico Suave

It’s a snow day. The kids are home, and we are house bound. There’s a low tide at 6 PM. I was counting on getting out and gathering seaweed. But the remote beach roads are harsh, and I best stay put.
But in the meantime, I’ll tell you a chicken story. My oldest son commented on my Chicken Check-Up blog and reminded me about a wee bantam rooster that once ruled the flock.
First of all, let me get a few facts straight. Hens (females) do not need a rooster (male) to produce eggs. Roosters copulate with hens to fertilize eggs. The hen will lay eggs with or without his services. Chicks develop only in fertilized eggs. I can’t speak for the other poultry populations, but I know this for sure about chickens. Common grocery store layers never get laid. But if you’ve witnessed chicken sex, you probably see this fact as a blessing.  It’s not a romantic moment.
But let’s get back to the story. I started my flock a few years ago with eight Rhode Island Reds and a Silky roo named Ziroshanae. Fuzzy black feathers bedazzled his feet and 3lb body in the most peculiar way. My Russian neighbor lady named him (I’ve phonetically spelled his name, but have no idea how should be written). There is no direct translation for Ziroshane, but it’s the way a guy looks in the morning after a horrible night of hen-pecking. 

Ziro was a great little bird, and as far as chickens go, I loved him. He was tiny, about half the size of my hens. He thought he was really something, making love to his big ladies. The girls kept right on scratching for grubs, hardly aware of his presence. To put it delicately, his anatomy made sexual contact impossible. But he was beautiful to look at and provided the sound track for barnyard mornings.
While I was in Mexico for the summer, a coyote ate Ziro. Jim was in charge of keeping the coop, and at first, he tried to find a look-a-like, but Silky roos are not a dime a dozen. He replaced Ziro with a colorful Chochin bantam, and sent a confession email to Mexico.
I named the new roo, “Don Julio,” after the tequila I’d been drinking. Jim called him Rico Suave, and it stuck. Rico was a mean little pimp. He was smaller than Ziro, but his attitude was bigger than the cartoon rooster, Foghorn Leghorn. He bossed the girls around, clawing at them and blocking paths to control movement about the coop. He was an ass, but chicken social skills are not my specialty, so I didn’t get involved. The only human Rico took a shine to was my oldest kid, Nick.

Rico treated my younger boys like his bitches. He jumped on their heads when they entered the coop and attacked them in the field on free-range days. I figured it was a guy thing. But then, the nasty little man attacked me. I punted him across the yard, more of a startled reaction than a show of anger. I tried to stay out of his way, collect eggs after dark, and avoid conflict. Rico had to push it. He sought me out.
I consulted back copies of Mother-Earth News and Backyard Poultry and surfed the Internet for answers. The best advice was to not fight back. As it turns out, Rico didn’t think I was his bitch. He thought I was a dude rooster trying to steal his girls. According to popular advice, his aggressive behavior would cease if I let him attack me a few times. I put on a thick pair of Carhardt overalls, and let him have his way with me. We kept up this routine for weeks, but the aggression never stopped.
Several months ago, Ricco hid behind the water container while the girls grazed in the field. I assumed he was outside too. I stooped down to fetch an egg. Rico sprang to life and sliced the back of my thigh open with his spurs. He snatched a beak full of ponytail and clawed at my neck and face.
I ordered the hit, contracting Garret to snuff out Rico for a handsome bounty of $15. Garret asked how. I recommend an ax. Garret wasn’t fond of blood and wondered if a good twist wouldn’t do the trick. I didn’t see why not. I Googled, “how to kill a chicken,” and found neck-wringing a common practice.
Garret performed the hit and returned to the house 20-minutes later. His eyes were red, and his voice was soft.
“You okay?”
“Yeah, that sucked.”
“Where did you put him?”
“Neighbor’s dumpster.”
“You wanna talk about it?”
“What can I do to make you feel better?”
“How about a bonus $10 bucks?
I paid Garret $25, and hoped his career as a hit man was over. We didn’t talk about Rico over dinner, and by bedtime I almost forgot about the violent act. To be truthful, I was glad he was dead. He was a miserable little man.
I heard a rooster crow at 0530 the next morning. At first it didn’t register. Rico always crowed in the morning. The crow grew louder and louder, as if Rico found a megaphone. I thought I was dreaming, misguided by guilt or something. But then the Russian neighbors called.
My neighbors speak English better than most American-born folk, but when they get angry, overly excited, or frustrated, English goes out the window. I heard quips of English commingled with complicated gusts of Russian. From what I gleaned, Rico was in the dumpster, alive as the day he was born, and ready to fight the neighbor guy.
Garret swore he killed Rico, but what he really did was put him to sleep for a several hours. We took Rico back to the coop, nicknamed him "Hard-2-Kill, and let him live to die another day.

Another day came sooner than expected. Rico attacked, Chris, the teenaged son of my Filipino neighbors. (We are the world on my little lane). Rico also attacked the son’s girlfriend. I heard the shot, followed by an apologetic phone call. Rico was no more. I half expected to hear him crow in the morning from the Filipino dumpster, but all was quiet.
Lately, I’ve been scanning Craigslist for a couple new hens to keep up with egg production. I’ve noticed a few mated pairs for sale. I’m tempted. Hatching chicks would be fun, but I just don’t know if I need all that testosterone in the hen house again.


  1. What, no picture of Rico Suave? He was pretty cool except for the "lets make love to the egg lady" thing.

  2. My grandparents (whom I lived with for my first six years) kept chickens, and their rooster was pretty mean too! My grandpa always had to go pen him up when we girls went up to gather the eggs, so I can totally relate! :)

  3. look you just got to let him know who the real cock of the walk is... he sensed my superior pimpness and bowed to the greater pimp