Drongo

I suppose it was a random blow that might have struck him on the neck rather than his coxcombed head that must have done the damage. He came back at me as fiery and belligerently as ever that day and I gave him another boot to the chest before scurrying from the makeshift gate where he ruled his squired brood. He strutted away, puffed up and proud of another win. It might have been the last time he held his head as haughtily.

We called him Gordon, anagram of drongo, after his first master, who didn’t appear to mind the teased wordplay, however laboured, and was fortunate to have little understanding of civilised society. I used to kick him-the rooster- as one would a rugby league ball, and he’d sail upwards and backwards into the giant mango tree. A moment later, I’d have to do it again, or risk, at worst, a spur or talon to the medial artery or through a shoe. One Christmas, as I was preparing for the annual get together, he finally got me. Flapping himself upwards, he managed to pick out a vessel, a tributary to the knee and then chased the spurting stream, spur readied, as I fled shedwards. I spent days becalmed, the infected leg raised in a sad salute to his unerring aim. He spent days circling the shed, a sharp shark dressed in feathers. Eventually I recovered; I stayed on my side of the yard and he went back to corralling his crew, occasionally dropping the landing gear, as my buddy Gordon called the procedure…a quick shuffling dance around the hens, his wings stretched downwards and head tilted back.

The only thing more stupid than a rooster is an owner unaware of just how stupid they are; someone who assumes the beast could be educated. I might as well have beaten him around the ears with a carrot as a stick. One day I took him to a veterinarian on account of he appeared near dead from no apparent cause. Sitting in the waiting room, I couldn’t help but notice a distinct absence of poultry, or for that matter, kangaroos, rats or funnel webs. Something about pet selection I’d evidently missed. My education in animal husbandry came strictly from raising kids, house husbandry. Turns out he’d forgotten to eat. Roosters, I was told, can spend all their mental energy trying to impress their harem. They’ll prance and dance and demand the grain, pick it up, drop it, then stand guard as the hens peck, but somehow overlook eating, and they’re not even hen-pecked, but then….the only thing more stupid than a rooster…So, I paid the vet, brought an eye dropper and glucose and, within days, he was back to normal. I started wearing cricket pads when in his muddy domain and felt as safe as if in a padded cell.

Roosters, or indeed, poultry, in suburbia are a rather problematic issue. Council decrees that you can’t have more than five chickens and maybe one rooster provided no-one complains; and someone always complains, sooner, not later. My complainant wasn’t even an immediate neighbour, but she wanted the rooster restrained immediately and permanently. Turns out, early one morning, Gordon had led a squad into her front yard, frightened off her mutt and proceeded to dismantle a truckload of bark, neatly spreading it across the adjacent footpath. Woke me up at 5am, she did, all 84 years of her, perched at the bedroom window, screaming in her Cornish cant and lilt. There followed solicitors warnings and finally the inevitable visit from a council health and building inspector. Health wasn’t the problem, nor the pre-dawn visit; they were civil matters. It was the chook pen, my rough, stick, wire and mud cage, undermined by unruly rats, patrolled by impatient pigeons, that was too close to the neighbours’ fence and had to have a concrete floor. He wasn’t happy about the number of inmates either, but I convinced him that most were visitors on holidays. The pigeons kept one of their brethren permanently on stoolie watch on the corner houses’ roof whenever I was out. A coo and they came. When they feed on grain they crawl over each other in a sea of seething feathers, like maggots on a stripped carcass.

At one stage, vermin in the form of rats, took advantage of a momentary imbalance in the supply cycle and threatened to overrun the suburb; generally the pigeons managed to eat everything not tied down. Ultimately, the voraciousness of the birds eliminated the rodents and Gordon died of unnatural causes probably related to a very sore throat. Fortunately, his brood lives on and I occasionally enjoy an omelette in peace. There appears no satisfactory solution to feral pigeons, apart from pretending they’re just another member of avian society, like mynah birds.