Does anyone want a magnificent rooster?  Actually, I’ve got two I want homes for.  Beautiful plumage, as they say.  Purebred Barred Plymouth Rocks.  They were meant to be hens.  In fact, I gave their ‘sisters’ to someone I do work for and three weeks later the crowing began, which is a little embarrassing. 

It is very hard to sex young poultry, and we learned that the Rocks, bless their socks, mature much later than other breeds.  Just before Christmas, we’d brought in a dozen fertilised eggs, with buff orpingtons, rhodies, and a few other things as well.  They hatched at (almost) the same time, learned to scratch for food together and we spotted one Rhode Island rooster early on and found a suitable home for him.  My boss came out and got him, and the other three Barred Plymouth Rock ‘girls’.  A very easy mistake to make, especially when one is not an expert at these complicated things.  Now I know not to count my chickens until after a really, really long time and never, never to offer them to a person in a position of authority over me.

Finding homes for roosters, even lovely Barred Plymouth Rocks, is never an easy thing, and I’ve found many over the years.  Once we gave a beautiful Black Orpington rooster to the person my husband worked for.  Always a mistake.  In this case, he was in fact, after a rooster, rather than a hen, so that was a good starting point.  However, docile and sweet-tempered in our backyard, Reginald became the very devil itself when in a new environment.  He took an especial dislike to Gerry’s two little children and his wife and flew at them at every opportunity, of which there were many.  Not surprisingly, Reginald and his fierce attacks did not last long.  There have been happier experiences, luckily. This time last year I’d just about given up hope of ever finding a home for two light Sussex roosters, then out of nowhere someone said they were looking for roosters, and out they went to live the life of spoiled poultry, hand-fed and with their own barn.

But now things are getting serious.  The crowing has begun, which means that our own two boys are in uncertain territory.  Having spent too many years waking up to watch the husband get up to milk cows, we are fond of sleeping undisturbed past 5.30 am.

Clearly, they have to go or something terrible will happen.  Like a special Solstice celebration.  All you need is 42 cloves of garlic and a chicken.  What more can I say?

Chicken with 42 cloves of garlic

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 to 10 chicken drumsticks or thighs
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 peppers, chopped
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 6 sprigs oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • ½ cup brandy
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • salt, pepper
  • 42 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.

Heat oil in a skillet and quickly fry chicken two or three pieces at a time.  As they brown, remove them to a plate.

Cut celery into long strips and chop onions and peppers.  Place on the bottom of a large casserole dish.

Chop parsley and sprinkle with oregano sprigs on the vegetables.

Place the chicken pieces on top.

Pour over the brandy and stock and add bay leaves.

Tuck the garlic cloves around the chicken.  Season.  Cover with tin foil, then place a lid over this.  Bake for 1½ hours, in the last hour throw in some potatoes.

Serve with winter veggies.