I wake up listening for the rejected rooster. We leave the barn doors open at night because it’s been hot and I want ventilation for the horses. He likes to sit on this bale, so I don’t move him to a room I can entirely shut up. He doesn’t have a name, but he is a pet, a tame rooster that has been ostracized by the flock. For awhile he had a couple hens, but they joined the other rooster. I know how this feels. I still miss friends who eased away over a decade ago.

We’ve had an aggressive rooster that dug their talons into my leg, a deep scary wound, that thankfully never got infected. Bruce dispatched him, threw him on the fence line as food for coyotes and turkey buzzards.

The other night the coyotes howled just across the road in our neighbor’s waterway. Trains singing the rails make them yip and sing. They also howl over a kill. Their song haunts me. They sound like they are in pain and afraid. I want to call them in, comfort them, make them pets. I stood on the porch glad my animals were safely in the barn, the chicken shed, and the house. I listened, the air cool around my legs. 

I listen for my rooster when I wake because we have lost chickens from an open barn. We nearly lost one this summer when a coyote sauntered down our driveway long before sunset. I’m surprised we haven’t lost more from their pecking along our neighbor’s field, a long way from cover. Funny how I care about these hens and roosters. They’re scraggly and some are seven/eight years old.

They eat grass seed Bruce has planted over the dirt where there used to be stumps that he patiently burned. One summer we lost 25 pine trees in a drought. He patiently toppled them, one by one. He fences the seed, so my chickens won’t eat it. But they also eat maggots, keeping flies at bay. I think they are like moving flowers. There’s something humble in the way they peer at me, when it’s time to feed. I am reminded how Jesus said he longed to gather Jerusalem under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks. 

My sleep is getting better and better because the sun is rising later and later. The dogs wake with it, so a later sun means I am getting that extra hour. The rooster waits too. I listen when I snap awake.

The other night  I listened to owls. Bruce says they are a mysterious secretive bird. I read once that they could be visitors from another world, that seeing them, was like seeing into another dimension. Then there’s the adjective “wise” that we pair with owls. Earlier this summer we drove up to the farm after dark and saw one perched on the shed roof, a large black weather vane. (Sometimes I wish I had a fancy camera to have captured that picture.) 

They sound like teamsters calming horses into a stop–who, who, whoa, whoa. As I fell asleep and woke, fell asleep and woke, even just before sunrise, I listened to how they sounded like pulling the night back into some kind of slowing down, calm. 

Have I ever mentioned the magnificent trees on this farm? How they are like “small g” gods? It wasn’t a loss to lose the pine trees, but the ash trees, the emerald ash borer destroyed, it was a loss. We are slowly losing our oaks.

We cut down three of those ash trees, the farm filling up with men working, but that’s a story for another day. 

I wake up listening for the rooster and so far I hear him crowing. At the cock crow Jesus said Peter would deny him. When I walk out for final chores, the rooster watches to see if I will shag him back into the safe room. I look back and let him stay on his bale of hay. 

In the morning I listen, glad to hear him calling for the sun.

What do you listen for when you first greet the day?

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  • LB Johnson says:

    Poor rejected rooster. He’s such a handsome boy too. I listen for the sound of my husband in the kitchen. Since he likes a couple hours to just chill and have coffee before he leaves for work (he’s NOT a morning person) and I pretty much just crawl out of bed, fire up the computer and start my work day, I sleep in after him. He’ll close the bedroom door but if sleep is light I’ll hear him moving about. After 20+ years living alone, it’s a comforting sound.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thanks for stopping by. What a wonderful sound to listen to when you wake up. I can see how it’s a comforting sound to hear his presence a few rooms away. And to be able to sleep in after him.

  • Our neighbors across the wash (which in California speak is like a cement riverbed that only has water a few times a year when it rains) have chickens and I hear them at certain times of the day. However, no roosters. I’ve thought about getting chickens but I have two large dogs and we where we live there are coyotes. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    • katiewilda says:

      Hens do make quite a lot of noise too, though they aren’t as noisy early in the day as roosters. I figure that’s why towns that allow hens won’t allow roosters. Your large dogs might not bother your chickens. Ours don’t. Our female has herded them some, but she pretty much ignores them. Coyotes are a pain but you could give the hens a fenced in yard to protect them from coyotes. Well, you have to do what you have to do…Thank you so much for stopping by.

  • Patty Scott says:

    Katie, this was lovely. I have the opposite of a penchant for roosters. One at our riding lessons years ago had a thing for pink – and not a good thing. He came at me from behind. I can’t say I lamented too badly a few months later when I heard one of their younger dogs had it out with him and won. The rooster was aptly named Napoleon. He lived up to that small and brutal, domineering title. Since the experience with Napoleon, I thought KFC ought to only serve rooster and leave the hens to lay and grow old. That’s my thoughts on roosters – until this post. I wish I could come meet your rejected rooster. He sounds lovely. Maybe like many more subdued men, other bullish men overlook him. He seems to be in just the right roost. Your writing is so gracious, conversational and inviting. I love it. It feels like an afternoon on the porch swing, overlooking wide spaces. That’s my happy place – and you brought me to it with your words.

    • katiewilda says:

      Oh Patty what kind words.They help me know a little more of what I’m aiming for with my writing. May I quote you? Napoleon sounds like quite a character. Those rooster attacks can be intimidating and painful. Have you read The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin? He talks about a rooster who runs the barn yard. It’s a wonderful book. Bruce said our rooster is the father of the other one, and the other one wins. In some ways I think the rejected rooster has a better deal because he’s watched over more closely.

      • Patty Scott says:

        Katie, you surely may quote me. I have not read the Book of the Dun Cow. I’ll check it out. I wonder about that younger rooster ruling his father. I guess that is the generational way – the older needs to step aside so the new man can lead well. I am in no hurry to meet the young rooster, but I’m smitten with this old man rooster of yours 🙂

        • katiewilda says:

          Well, I’m so glad you’re smitten with the older rooster. The younger one isn’t a bad chap either. He takes pretty good care of his hens. Thanks again for stopping by…