It has begun. Early in the morning, the first hesitant oodle noise. I know, from sad experience, that within weeks our young rooster will gain vocal command he never dreamed possible and before long he will become a feathered fiend, striking under cover of darkness.
This is something to lose sleep over (literally.) In the back yard - which is surprisingly close to the bedroom window- is our chicken house, replete with the finest fowl anyone could wish for. We like the old-fashioned, so-called heavy breeds. None of this modern poultry for us. Our hens are from the finest stock - Rhode Island Red, Gold Wyandotte, Barred Plymouth Rock.
Not only do they lay lovely brown eggs on an almost regular basis, but they grace our yard with their beautiful plumage and sheer chickenness. All except Roddy. A purebred Light Sussex, he’s a handsome bird, with impeccable manners and possibly, one day, a winning way with the girls. But not ours.
We don’t like boys in our chicken coop because they have a tendency to crow. And we have experienced previous feathered alarm clocks.
The nightmare began in the Autumn, of 1996. A neighbour had a rooster, which is fine and dandy because this is the country. But this bird was on the late shift and began work anytime from 1.30 am, seven days a week. I worked out what the problem was. Most roosters crow at the first hint of morning light. This chap was kept in a coop where approaching car lights might have appeared as dawn.
It’s bad to be woken by a rooster, but worse when it does not belong to you. And much, much worse when the neighbour couldn’t care less.
She never heard it and therefore it wasn’t a problem. There was nothing she was going to do about it.
Night after night, week after week, months went by and it got to the point where in between lying awake waiting for the crow, I dreamed of slipping over the fence and dispatching the rooster to the afterlife - slowly.
I rang the farm vet and asked was it possible to decockadoodle a rooster? He assured me it was a piece of cake – all you do is chop off its head.
At this time I began cooking up a storm of poultry dishes – a purely cathartic process. The situation was resolved by our moving away – something we had been planning on doing.
Now we have a rooster. We buy in fertilised eggs, and incubate these under a broody hen – and of course, you don’t always get the right ratio of boys and girls.
While an obvious solution is simply to fry the fellas up with a bit of garlic and oregano, this time my hands are tied because the daughter has hand-raised our flock and this option is forbidden. So now I’m looking for a home for my lovely, friendly rooster Roddy. Because I really don’t want to move house again.
Some years back, my Sardinian friend Mariano made the following dish, it translates as chicken, hunters style. It can also be made using rabbit, just include two rashes of bacon and cook for slightly longer. The idea is the dish is cooked in one pan, over an open fire in the Sardinian hinterland, using whatever herbs are to hand. Part of the appeal is the different sizes and shapes of the meat. This works a treat with roosters but is equally delicious using supermarket-bought chicken, which is what we used. We bought a large bird and jointed it using a sharp knife. Simply cut off the drumsticks, thighs, and wings and then cut away the breasts and chop each breast into three chunks. Leave the skin on. Delicioso.
Pollo alla cacciatora
- 1 chicken
- 10 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 tsps fresh oregano
- 1 red chilli
- olive oil
- two tomatoes
- salt, black pepper
- 1 cup red wine
- 12 black olives
In a heavy skillet, heat about 1 tsp oil and brown as much chicken as will fit. Drain any fat and discard. Heat some oil in a large pan, and as browned, add chicken to this.
Roughly chop garlic, add herbs and chopped chilli and fry gently in the skillet. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more oil.
Chop tomato and add to the pan with wine. Season to taste. Finally, add the olives, and cook until the chicken is tender about 20 minutes. If cooking a rooster allow a longer cooking time.