Friday, March 25, 2011
When Your Hen Becomes a Rooster
The mother was Buff Orpington. The fathers were either Delaware or Buff Orpington. As fate would have it, Mom presented me with offspring of each. Of course, I could not tell the sexes.
If you know anything about chickens, you know that you can always handle an extra hen or two, but roosters can be trouble with more than one in a coop. The babies were shy, so personality told me nothing. Then a hunting friend of my husband's came by and said, "The tan one is a boy and the white one is a girl." He talked about tail feathers and the necks, but I took him at his word. I nicknamed them Little Boy and Little Girl.
I fed them by hand, and hugged them whenever I visited, at least once daily. They came right to me. Brother and sister loved each other, protecting one another. We no longer had the Delaware daddy, but the Orpington daddy favored both of them. All was right with the flock.
They grew fast, exceeding the sizes of all the hens. Then one day, as I got into my car with my adult son, I heard a young crow from the coop. "Ah, Little Boy is trying to crow. That's so cute," I said. Young rooster are like boys growing through puberty - cracked voice and all. I wanted to go cheer Little Boy on, make him feel all big and macho. But I turned and got into the car.
My son didn't. "Mom, you need to look at this."
I stepped back out of the car and watched the coop occupants. The crows continued . . . from Little Girl.
My son busted out laughing. "So much for you getting another hen. How you going to keep three roosters in one coop?"
While I had a comfortable family in that coop, I knew that in a few months, the civility would change almost with the flip of a switch as the three boys fought over the five girls. Believe it or not, that bothered me. This wasn't what I planned. I'd given roosters away to my husband's friend before, not wanting to know if they landed on his table for Sunday dinner, but that was not an option this time. These were my babies.
When we invest time into our writing projects,the scenes, chapters, characters and paragraphs become our babies. We birthed them, fed them, built their world around them until we thought everything was perfect. Then someone, whether a critique group member, mentor or editor, tells us that something isn't right. Suddenly we are faced with the task to "kill your darlings" as William Faulkner once said.
I've seen many a writer refuse to butcher their babies. Most didn't sell, either, and the stories wound up languishing on a flash drive somewhere, maybe on paper in a drawer. But if you can accept the dirty duty of cutting out those darlings, and killing babies, you'll do wonders for the rest of the piece. I dare to say that the majority of unpublished writers aren't willing to dispose of their work and phrases. They are in love with them. They've fed them by hand and hugged them too much to part.
Well, Little Boy still pals around with dad in their coop. You can hardly tell them apart. Little Girl, however, was moved to our second coop. We cut her/him out of the original flock, and after only one night of confusion, she/he adapted, even thrived. Now he services nine hens of his own . . . and his name is Alex.
And all's much better in the chicken world.