The course of true love never did run smooth, even in the chookhouse.
A marine biologist once told me I had committed the gentle sin of anthropomorphism.
“Really?” Whatever it was, it sounded clever.
He explained that it’s the application of human behaviour to an animal. For example: “The whale had a tantrum.”
I can see why anthropomorphism is offensive to scientists but I still exploit it shamelessly. I even mess anthropomorphically with the genius of English playwrights. It’s the only way I can make sense of my chooks.
Scene I. My chookhouse. Several centuries after Romeo and Juliet died tragically in that mix-up over the poison, they have another chance at true love as a rooster and hen. They had two chicks but have lost them to a wicked hawk.
Juliet is bereft; Romeo builds a bridge and gets over it. He soon has two more chickens, this time with Cinnamon. The chicks are named Pebbles and Bam Bam because I miss Flintstone cartoons.
Juliet cannot hide her disdain: “Cinnamon? But how could you? She’s a dorking.” As an Old English gamebird and Shakespearean heroine, Juliet considers herself superior.
Scene II. The nesting box, three months later. Juliet has shacked up with Julia. Both hens have brief affairs with Romeo for his sperm and are raising four chicks together.
Bam Bam has grown into a handsome youth with high-reaching tail feathers and a delicious blue sheen. His parents’ strife upsets him and he fights constantly with Pebbles. “Be nice to your sister,” I tell him, until I notice that Pebbles is also sprouting quite wonderful tail feathers and even tiny spurs. That explains everything.
By now Bam Bam is bothering his mother and auntie for sex, which puts him in trouble with Romeo. It hurts Romeo that he, the star of the Globe Theatre, must duel with an also-ran of American cartoons. Bam Bam is banished to Bedrock; Cinnamon dies of natural causes. That leaves Pebbles battling his transgender issues alone.
I try to help. First, Pebbles needs a masculine name. Peter? Pablo? Picasso. Yes. It honours his mantle of black-flecked gold painted lightly upon the shining blue-green feathers. They bloom like Sir Francis Drake’s breeches in a portrait. Picasso is a fine cock in a codpiece although his youthful crow still croaks at crucial moments.
Scene III. A small birdhouse without resource consent. Enter Honey and Alice, pretty young dorkings from a nearby farm. Julia and Juliet won’t let them in the chookhouse. Romeo moves into the birdhouse with Honey and Alice but quickly regrets it. The birdhouse has no view and borders Weka Alley. He misses Juliet.
Scene IV. The herb garden. Despite my careful planning the star-crossed lover, desperate housewives, happy couple and sex-starved single meet. Picasso, desperate for love, tries to mount Alice. Romeo attacks.
In the melee, his sharp spurs pierce my Red Bands and me, which freaking hurts. I banish Picasso and allow Romeo to stay. He has a special place in my heart and I feel responsible for this farce of brawling love.
It’s the price I pay for anthropomorphism.
Romeo: check out his long spurs, which are a feature of his breed as an Old English gamebird;
The native falcon which killed five of my chickens in a week, including Juliet, the matriarch, not covered in this story;
the Aunties, Cinnamon and Honey, on the gin again;
Picasso, a fine cock in a codpiece.
© Rebecca Hayter
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