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How to deal with bullies

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Me, chillin’ with my peeps

Introducing the Bully

Well, this last week has been filled with battles, and tears, blood and scratches. My children have faced up to a menacing foe who has tried to gain supremacy over them. The kids did nothing wrong to deserve this, but the enemy has low self-esteem, and fancies himself as the alpha male – but is in reality somewhat down the pecking order. In retaliation, he takes it out on others, the smaller boys and the girls. The bully even tried to intimidate me, once, but I taught him his place.

The bully is black, with a large comb, and wattles so long they brush the earth when he feeds. I am not certain of his heritage, but he is possibly part leghorn, part australorp. Or maybe a minorca. I’m not sure. But I do know he is an opportunist, and has a violent streak to his nature. He is a rooster.

His name is Roast. It will soon be his job description.

The Attack

My helpers have a few jobs to do, as part of their daily payback for living at home. One of the tasks is to feed the poultry. I said poultry, because, as anyone who owns chickens knows, chickens can rapidly get out of hand. We started with 6 hens. Now, I am not quite sure how many we have, but we have at least:

  • More than 5 hens (as that was how many eggs went flying this morning) but probably less than 15. Shavers, and Araucanas, Australorp, Sussex etc.
  • A large, lovely rooster named Moose (well, more precisely Mousse, as his mother’s name was Chocolate. Get it – Chocolate Mousse…).
  • A pair of bantam roosters we found near our house (Fluffy and Scruffy). They had been dumped, and are really very gentle and quiet. They also keep out of the way of anything bigger than a blackbird.
  • A pair of Guinnea fowl. The girl is a lavender colour. She is also so incredibly noisy that I am beginning to wonder what Guinnea fowl taste like. The thought often crosses my mind  at 5am.
  • There is also a matching grey rooster named Leggy, who hangs out with the Guinneas, so we refer to them together as ‘the guinnea chickens’
  • A pair of turkeys. Well, not really a pair. They are both girls. I suppose they could be a pair. I am not going to judge, as long as they make some eggs. They are generally passive-aggressive, and don’t make a big show of being dominant, but I do suspect they quietly pecked a couple of the poor hens to death.
  • We used to have (as mentioned before) a lovely brown hen named Chocolate (mother of Mousse), but her leg was injured. I kept her in a side pen on her own, to see if she would recover, but a gigantic Araucana rooster broke in and raped the poor girl for a full day until she was nearly dead. I had to euthanise her, and felt so utterly sad when I cut her head off, and she blinked at me a couple of times afterwards.  She was, sadly, delicious.
  • We used to have a gigantic Araucana rooster. I don’t stand for that sort of carry on. He is now in the freezer. I didn’t feel as sad about that one.
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Fluffy and Scruffy – They are very funny, sweet birds.

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The turkeys – Trudy and Trixie, having a bit of free range time

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Mighty Mousse, before he got his crow

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Turkeys came a knockin’

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The Guinnea chickens as teens

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This was the rooster that messed with Chocolate. He is now in the freezer.

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Mighty Mousse, when he was just a little peeper

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Roast, before he grew up and turned to the dark side

Anyway, the children have to feed the chooks in the morning, and then feed and collect eggs at night. It is a useful, yet not overly demanding job, and gives them responsibility.

Helper A came in one morning, rather distraught. He had been attacked by the big, black rooster, who is now known as Roast. A had large scratches on his leg, and was crying something fierce. After some cold water on the scratches, and a bit of a hug, he managed (between sobs) to tell me the story of the unprovoked attack. It had waited until he was talking with the girls, and was distracted, and then it struck – flapping up and kicking him, and scratching with its spurs. Poor A bolted and ran, with chooks escaping and quickly dispersing in all directions. I don’t know why they all did that, as they have a larger section to roam in than most households in this country.

I managed to not laugh at poor A‘s misfortune, and instructed him on what he must do. To me, it was just a chicken, but to him it was a serious and capable adversary, which had already drawn first blood. I told him, it cannot be allowed to win, or it will always be against him. He needed to go straight into that chicken yard, and slap down that rooster. He needed to slap it down, again and again, until it was in submission. He needed to do it now, lest he become afraid. He took courage, as I patiently explained weapons and tactics, and battle psychology. He girded himself like a man, rose up, took a deep breath, and strode towards the door. Picking up a piece of plastic rod, like a switch, he advanced to his prey.

The Battle

As he approached the gate, rod in hand, the girls all came running to him (even the turkeys and the Guinnea chickens), and so he was wading through a mess of poultry which were all excitedly looking for (another) feed. Then Roast saw him, surrounded by the girls, AND WAS NOT AMUSED. It dropped one wing down, and did this funny little dance, telling A to back the hell off before things got personal. He kept coming, and Roast flew at him, and the hens scattered.

Like a medieval knight, or perhaps a samurai, or a 1950’s headmaster, A came out swinging. I was cheering him on and instructing from the sidelines (for this was his battle, A must win his own spurs this day!). Roast saw the swing, and backed off quickly just out of range.

The warrior paused, allowing the adversary a false sense of victory, and the rooster came at him again. Again he swung and paused. This went on, combatants circling each other slowly, each having a parry or quick dart at their enemy, before retreating.

I called advice from the sidelines, “attack, attack, attack, don’t pause until he gives up!” The pain in my sides was serious – from stifling the laughter. Oh the funnies!

The man-cub took my advice, and went at it, laying at the rooster non-stop, chasing it around the yard, swinging wildly. He had its measure now, and every time Roast dropped his wing to do a little dance all it gained was a smacked bottom. Again and again the man-cub swung, yelling like a savage, taunting his foe with carefully crafted scripts, like “YAH!”, and “YAH!”. In the 10 minute battle, he must have struck Roast at least, oh, maybe 3 times. Once if you discount tail-feather hits.

Eventually, the tired miscreant gave up. Roast retreated to a corner and huddled in submission, and the triumphant warrior held him down to the ground, in ultimate humiliation. Roast would not bother that boy again.

The Aftermath

Roast has since attacked helper E, who had to go through the same process to fight back – don’t take that kind of rubbish from a chicken! As E is somewhat more timid in nature, her first fight has not been the last, and she was surprised from behind in one battle, being knocked down. She got back up again, and fought, and has been victorious, though a couple of eggs suffered breakage. Roast even tried to take on Beloved, but at the first sign of a drop-wing dance, Beloved went for him instead.

Roast is now greatly lowered on the pecking order, still full of aggression, but now only Fluffy and Scruffy feel the need to keep away from him. He is now on death row – Cock-au-vin is a distinct possibility.

The Lesson

This has been one of the most useful life lessons for my helpers. They have learned about bullies, how they work, and how to beat them. This lesson has been applicable to the schoolyard as well as the barnyard. E was often picked on by some unscrupulous girls, and was too gentle to do anything about it. Seeing one girl approaching, about to push in line, E recognised it for what it was – a wing-drop dance for domination. E pushed first, and the other girl was not expecting resistance, and so was unbalanced, nearly falling over. She backed off. A humiliating public defeat for the bully. Victory for E. That bully has not touched her since.

E has had several other run-ins with another playground bully, but she has learned to stand her ground, to strike when necessary, and she has learned that the teachers stand up for anyone who is picked on. The children have learned to work together to round up and slap down chickens – especially if that chicken has spitefully taken their basketball during recess and has it tucked under their wing. The children also know that their Dad will stand by them. And if a chicken is given a blood nose, or cries to a mummy or a teacher after receiving just desserts for meanness, they know Dad will support them through any consequence. This lesson has made school a joy instead of a tummy-cramp inducing, stress filled anxious nightmare for my 3 helpers. I am proud of them.

Thank you Roast.

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