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Adios Angel

| 03 Jan 2013 | 06:01

Angel arrived in the mail this summer, in an order of what was supposed to be 25 female chicks but turned out to be 26. It was clear right away she was different. She was jet black while the others were brown. But that wasn’t so strange, since there was a white one in the bunch, too. When she developed white accents underneath her wings, the name Angel seemed to fit.

Angel grew to be a glorious creature. She got so big that when she crossed paths with a flock-mate, she’d just raise one leg to let the oncoming chicken pass underneath her. Her unusually long tail feathers turned an iridescent green, and she developed rust-colored patches on her wings and a creamy head, neck and posterior.

Subsequent telltale signs that Angel was singular included a striking resemblance to a rooster in the movie, “The Natural History of the Chicken,” and finally, one morning, letting out an unmistakeable cock-a-doodle-do, and directly thereafter mounting another chicken.

We were delighted. Since losing a chicken to a red-tailed hawk, we’d been thinking about getting a rooster to protect the flock as it ranged free. Plus the sound of a rooster crowing made the place feel like a real farm.

In the days after he hit puberty, Angel was a relaxed rooster who started crowing around 7am. But he gained testosterone by the day. By week’s end, his favorite move was to pin a chicken to the ground and peck her neck while she squawked in distress. We’d had no ironic intentions in naming Angel, but it was becoming difficult to ignore the paradox. Still, he was so impressive. Ben Roethlisberger came to mind.

On a walk with my two-month-old baby, I stopped in to see the chickens. I watched Angel admiringly, even as I grimaced for the victim of one of his assaults.

Having concluded his display of dominance, a puffed up Angel faced me squarely. I wouldn’t mess with you, I remember thinking. Apparently it wasn’t mutual.

Maybe he didn’t like me looking at him. Or he wanted to establish the pecking order. Or this is just what roosters do. Whatever his motivation, Angel flew at my legs and tried to peck them, getting a beakful of baggy sweatpant. I shook a leg at him and backed up. He flew at me again, this time at waist level – baby level – and I kicked him in the chest. He came again, and I started running up the hill for the house 40 yards away. I looked over my shoulder to see an angry rooster right on my heels. Carrying the baby, I wasn’t much faster than him. What would happen if I tripped? Would he go for our eyes, Hitchcock-style?

Fifteen yards from the front door he was still in pursuit. If he kept chasing me, I wouldn’t have time to open the door and shut him out. Would he follow me inside? Should I pass the door and run for the garden, where there was a shovel I could use as a weapon?

Fortunately, by the time I got to the house, Angel had given up the chase. I slammed the door, lifted the disheveled baby out of her papoose, and felt profound relief that no one had seen what just happened.

What would a real farmer have done? Real farmers don’t run around the farm being pursued by their own animals. They don’t poke their heads out the door and look around before setting foot outside. For two days I puzzled over it. Then Angel attacked the toddler who lives next door, and the question answered itself.

Early on a Sunday morning, before the chickens had eaten, husband Joe caught Angel and carried him to a tree in the garden. He tied Angel’s legs and hung him from a branch. Joe apologized to Angel, then cut his throat with a knife, letting him bleed out into the soil that will grow next year’s crops. He defeathered and cleaned Angel, just like in the YouTube video he’d watched the night before.

Angel is now in a Ziplock in the freezer, where he’ll stay until the winter solstice, which we decided was a fittingly significant day to cook and eat him.