Photo by Audrey Pavia
A lot of creatures live on my urban farm: three humans, six cats, three dogs, two rabbits, eight chickens and three horses. With all of these bodies on only a 1/2 acre, it’s imperative that everyone get along.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to interfering with household harmony is my rooster, Mr. Mabel. This bantam bully has long been known for terrorizing visitors who wander into the backyard. He once sent my farrier’s elderly mother running and screaming while he attacked her bare legs as she walked across the yard. He pushed around my visiting friend from Pittsburgh about a year ago (see “Stephanie vs. Mr. Mabel,” 05/16/2011), and has gotten a bad report card from pet sitters who dared to venture to the back to take care of the outdoor animals.
But Mr. Mabel has recently sunk to a new low. He had taken to picking on one of my roommates, Michelle.
Michelle keeps her horse, Teddy, on my farm, and so spends a lot of time in the backyard. A couple of months ago, she started complaining that Mr. Mabel wouldn’t leave her alone. She said he was coming after her. I had trouble believing this. I knew he would hassle people he didn’t know, but Michelle has been living here for nearly a year. He knows her by now — she’s no stranger. I told Michelle that he was probably just begging and she was misinterpreting his approaches as hostile. But she insisted he was coming after her, and that begging was the farthest thing from his mind.
So today, Michelle and I were outside tacking up our horses for a trail ride and I got to witness an incident first-hand. Michelle was walking from her horse to the tack shed, when Mr. Mabel spied her. He stood practically upright on his toes with his head high in the air and strutted toward her with great purpose. I had never seen this body language before. It was clearly aggressive.
“Hey!” I yelled at him. He stopped and looked at me. “Knock it off!” I said.
A few minutes later, it happened again. Michelle was right — the little monster was after her.
Determined to put a stop to this, I grabbed my insolent rooster and held him on his back. His ruff stood up as he tried to get a fix on my hand so he could bite me, but I kept it well out of reach. I waited until he stopped struggling, righted him and asked Michelle to pet him. She did — which was rather gracious of her, considering — and then I put him down.
As is typical after one of my scoldings, Mr. Mabel began to crow wildly in protest. But he stayed away from Michelle for the rest of the afternoon.
I’m hoping this attitude adjustment is permanent, although I’m skeptical. Mr. Mabel is a tenacious guy and is convinced he’s the king of the backyard castle. I think Michelle is in for more bullying.