I feel threatened. I might be in danger of extinction through irrelevance.

Our chickens are responsible.

Last year, an invasion of possums decimated our flock and then some, reducing it from near two dozen birds to just one lone survivor, a buff Orpington — hen.

Our rooster was among the victims.

After I had sent the offending varmints to possum heaven, we debated about whether to get another rooster.

I like having a rooster with the hens. I enjoy the crowing, fussing and strutting that the male birds perform. Books by chicken experts also credit roosters with keeping alert for hawks, owls and other airborne predators, calling out alarms to urge the hens to seek shelter.

But when we got 6-month-old pullets instead of baby chicks to speed up the egg production process, Freehling Farms near Kittanning only had hens remaining for sale.

We brought 10 hens home to join the lonely and traumatized possum slaughter survivor.

Five more hens came to us from Chris, my eldest son. His chicken-raising hobby ended when a job transfer sent him out of state.

I know that hens will lay eggs regardless of whether there is a rooster around to fertilize the eggs and set the stage for the birth of more chicks. Centuries of breeding to encourage that unfertilized egg laying have succeeded.

At my wife’s urging, I covered the top of our 50-foot-long outside run with sturdy plastic netting. That lessened the need for “Squawk! Predator! Squawk!” alarms from a rooster. Our hens are brought fully outside in afternoons, to roam around our house and barn, gobbling up ticks, mosquitoes, ants and the occasional unwary worm. The aerial predators, which to our surprise include an occasional migrating bald eagle, seem to stay away from the barn-house area, so the hens have been safe and unscathed for an entire year.

Hmm.

Hens are females, of course. As females, they are weaker than roosters and presumably in need of the strength, virility and robustness that males provide to the females of our chicken community ... and our human community?

That’s what I had believed.

Hmm.

Here at our small rural farmstead, my wife really does need me for activities that involve strength, virility, robustness and, of course, a whole lot of squawking, which I call “conversation.”

Right?

Last October, my eyes were opened. I absented myself for a long week in order to visit a daughter in South Dakota.

When I got home, everything worked, more or less.

Oh, the five-gallon gasoline containers for the mowers and other small gasoline operated tools needed to be refilled. My wife chooses to not do that, primarily because a filled five-gallon gasoline can weighs close to 50 pounds, an unwieldy weight for her to lift.

Hmm.

Gasoline containers come in smaller sizes: 2.5 gallons, 2 gallons, and 1 gallon. It would seem to be a small matter for my wife to simply buy a few smaller containers and heft them easily if I were no longer available.

But she needs me to run the snow blower — doesn’t she?

Hmm.

She runs the riding mowers and our walk-behind mower adequately. Perhaps her decision to leave running the snow blower to me is because I like the gnarly, growly thing — and it is quite cold outside when the snow blower needs to be used.

She does need me to finish power washing the outside of the house — doesn’t she?

Arrgh. There are people who will power wash the outside of our small farmhouse for quite reasonable costs.

Hmm.

It appears that what centuries of selective breeding has accomplished with hens — the ability to survive and thrive without roosters as long as humans provide some necessary assistance in housing and feed — has also been accomplished for the female homo sapiens, thanks to modern technology.

Electricity, small and easy to use gasoline engines, the ability to connect chore-avoiders with willing workers for reasonable fees, have combined to make it quite possible for human females to not need us males as they did in previous centuries.

Hmm.

They do want us, however — don’t they?

I mean, I do see our chickens making frequent gestures of receptivity to intimacies when they are around each other or, chickens being chickens in subtlety, in front of our dogs, cats, even ourselves.

Maybe our human females actually do want us around because they ... enjoy? ... our crowing, fussing, strutting, our “Squawk!” danger-protecting abilities, our strength, virility and robustness — don’t they?

Hmm.

I am looking out the window in front of my computer desk. In our yard, I see chickens meandering, clucking, pecking — and nary a rooster to be seen.

I feel threatened.

Our chickens are responsible.

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Denny Bonavita is a former editor/publisher at newspapers in DuBois, Brookville, New Bethlehem and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: notniceman9@gmail.com

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