Training in Toughness: Lessons from a Rooster

Why do I have holes in so many of my pants? Right near the knees, my blue jeans gap open. I’m sure the neighbors wonder if I’m trying to be in style with the local teenagers or if I save up old jeans to wear the barnyard. But the truth is, it is a nasty rooster who is ruining my wardrobe.

He’s a big white fellow who waits until my arms are full or I have turned my back. Then he puffs out his chest and jumps at my legs with his claws fully extended. I usually give him a swift kick or shove him away.

Most farmers would have turned him into soup long ago. But the problem is my daughter loves this bird. She raised him from egg to adulthood. And he was such a sweet fluff ball after he hatched from the incubator! How is it he became such a passive-aggressive rooster? We’ve had other roosters and none of them have attacked the hand that feeds them.

But Brigit, his “mother,” can pick up this rooster and carry him around. She named him Miracle after watching that big white egg crack open late one night two years ago. He lets her use him in a special role for her Vet’s Office playtime. One day Brigit and her friend had wrapped the rooster’s legs with red bandages and were keeping him in a cage “under observation.” The bird plays his sick patient role in a completely docile manner. And that is the only reason this Miracle is still miraculously alive!

I sometimes wonder if this bird is in my life to help me learn how to deal with passive-aggressive humans. You know those types. They smile to your face and talk about you behind your back. They can never actually say what bothers them out loud, but they are more than happy to blame you for all their troubles. They seem to like to cause problems because maybe sometime long ago you didn’t acknowledge their self-perceived glory.

I have tried everything-with hostile humans and this hostile bird alike-just to get along. With the bird, I have tried holding him and talking gently to him. I have given him his “space” and tried to avoid him. I have analyzed what I might be doing to cause his aggression. I have even worn glasses on the back of my head to try to keep him from doing the sneak attacks.

As far as humans with the rooster personality, I have tried talking, making peace offers and anticipating the triggers that might set them off. But nothing seems to work.

I have finally decided that the purpose of Miracle’s presence in my life is to give me an outlet for learning to be tougher.

There are times not to compromise. Normally, I’m the smiling, “never-say-no”, helpful person. But there are certain occasions in life when those passive-aggressive human roosters need to hear the words, “No.”

So now when I go out to the barnyard, I pick up the shovel first and let the rooster know that I want him to back off. When he sees the shovel he runs. But after I go about doing the chores he sometimes puffs out his chest. His eyes turn red when he’s ready to attack. I yell “No” or “kiyi” (from karate, pronounced Key-I). Calling out as loudly as I can, that usually makes him stop in his tracks.

I wonder-if my hole-filled jeans don’t raise eyebrows with the neighbors, the loud yelling might. But I don’t worry about it. I’m a tough old bird in training. I’d like to become someone you don’t mess with!

About Judith Costello

A certified art therapist, Judith is the author of numerous articles and books on parenting and child development, including Zen Parenting. She writes from Moriarty, New Mexico.