Raymond the Rhode Island Red

Raymond the Rhode Island RedHe sees me in the window and sidles up. Pecks the ground, but his eye is beaded on me. I know that look. I’ve seen it in many a rooster’s gaze – Jacques, Mr. Peabody, Lorenzo, even Mr. Lawrence, our very first rooster – a switch goes off in their tiny brains and they transform, seemingly overnight, from friendly and sweet to aggressive.

But with Raymond, who is watching me now, this switch happened early – before his spurs came in. And, unlike those before him, who seemed to single me out in particular, he attacks indiscriminately, flying at anyone on two legs who crosses his path.

Perhaps it’s because he is a Rhode Island Red – a large handsome specimen indeed – a breed of rooster that’s been known to be aggressive. He was not chosen, but adopted, from a nice local family that could no longer keep him.

When he came to live with us, Raymond was a sweet cockerel who followed us around the yard and stood on our feet when we were still. We could call to him from across the yard and he’d come running in that comical side-to-side, teeter-totter gate of chickens. We gathered him into our arms easily.

These days, I have to carry a walking stick, in case I suddenly need to block his hefty red-feathered body when he flies at me with startling swiftness. If I see him coming, I hold the stick high so that I look very tall, making him think twice about attacking.

When I let the chickens out of the coop in the morning, I wait for Raymond to pace away from the door so I can quickly unlatch it and move away before he comes out and tries to pursue me. If I plan ahead, I will first put out some fresh grain, so that he gets distracted, clucking excitedly to the hens about the food and forgetting about me. This works – sometimes.

I watch him now through the window, as he stands and stares, no longer pretending, but puzzled as to how to get to me here on the other side of the glass. I stare right back – and stick out my tongue.