Monday, July 09, 2007

Random Chicken Generator

Category: Issue 7, Short Story Winners

Random Chicken Generator

Old Red the rooster, heard the car drive into the yard. He opened one eye and lifted his beak. There was no sign of dawn and he wondered as he often did, why the hell humans didn’t settle down on their perches at a respectable hour

Tom Higginbottom got out of the car and stretched his cramped limbs. It had been a long drive from Yorkshire to the Norfolk countryside for his long promised visit to Daniel and his wife Joan.

He knocked on the farm door was greeted enthusiastically by his old friends and drawn into the parlour. ‘You must be starved, Tom,’ Joan said. She hurried into the kitchen and minutes later returned with a doorstop sandwich of bread and cheese and a mug of cocoa. ‘There, that’ll hold you ‘til morning.’

The spare bedroom was comfortable and homely. After a restful sleep and a large breakfast he’d spent the morning sharing chores with his old farming buddy. With the last of the work finished and lunch still a good way off, they relaxed outside. Tom leaned on the gate to the pigpen and packed his pipe, pressing the tobacco carefully into the bowl with practiced fingers. A flurry among the hens pecking about the yard drew his attention.

An oversized rooster ambled into sight around the side of a newly erected hen house. ‘Good Lord! What’s that?’ he said pointing the pipe stem at the strutting bird

‘It’s what I like to call a Random Chicken Generator,’ Daniel answered, leaning his suntanned arm on the pen rail.

Tom’s grey eyebrows lifted a fraction. ‘I’d call it a ruddy great rooster. They don’t come that big in Yorkshire.’

Red rooster strutted across the yard. He’d heard the word rooster. ‘They’re talking about me,’ he clucked softly.

The sun glanced off his brown, tail feathers and added a reddish sheen to their gloss. A scarlet cocks comb, wobbled with every jerking step, like an unsteady red crown on his head. He stopped, splayed yellow toes and scratched at the dirt.

‘Rhode Island Red, a’int he?’ Tom continued, scratching at his armpit in a lazy manner. ‘Big old bastard, what’s he weigh – nine pounds - ten?’

‘Nigh on twelve, pretty big for a Rhode Island.’

‘Never saw one bigger. Don’t suppose you’d consider selling him?’

Daniel grinned. ‘Not Likely! My egg business depends on him, Come for miles around to buy his eggs. Christ, he’s the randiest cock I’ve ever had. Services the whole hen house and still looks for more.’ He rubbed his hands together. ‘Old Red, here, is going to make me rich, the eggs his girlfriends lay are twice your normal size.’

A little brown hen fluffing her feathers in the dust nearby looked provocatively in Red’s direction.

Red swivelled his eyes her way. ‘I’m going to jump her if she gets any closer,’ he clucked, looking at her out of the side of his eye.

Tom dug his hands deep into his pockets and studied the Rooster as it pecked around his green Wellington boots. ‘What about business when he croaks?

The wattles on Red’s neck shook. ‘What does he mean when I croak? What does he think I am – a frog!’  He gave Tom’s trouser leg a quick, but vicious, peck.

Tom idly booted him away. ‘Get out of it.’

‘A couple of his offspring look as if they might have the makings. Only half grown and already coming up to full weight. If they do, I’ll expand, build a few more hen houses and start supplying supermarkets. Organics, that’s the in thing.’

‘You get a few youngsters running around the yard and old Red’s nose will be out of joint.

Daniel focused his pale blue eyes on the rooster and shrugged. ‘He’ll be ready for the pot by then.’

Red’s neck jerked forward and he stopped mid peck. ‘Did he say the pot? ‘

‘Yep, reckon he’d be too tough to roast,’ agreed Tom.


Outrage burned in Red’s chest and he turned his black and yellow eye on the faces looking down on him. They were discussing his murder as if he were just some old chicken. After he’d shagged [worked] himself to a frazzle for the past few years so as Daniel and his family could have plenty of eggs. They were going to discard him without even a thank you. Worse they were going to eat him. After his initial rush of anger Red felt despondent, his feathers drooped and he lost all urge to visit the hen house that day. He decided it was time to leave.

The following morning he fluttered atop the rain barrel and threw back his head. ‘Up yours, you ungrateful [turnips] bastards, I’m off,’ he crowed into the grey dawn. ‘I won’t be used as a proletarian chicken generator.’ Red was self-educated, he perused the ‘Poultry Times’.

The sun was well up over the horizon before he was missed, by which time he was well across country having hitched a lift on the back of a sugar-beet lorry.

The sun shone and the breeze ruffled his feathers as the lorry sped along, Red felt exhilarated, he was on the adventure of a lifetime. He stretched his neck and crowed.

In the distance he saw a familiar layout of a Farm, with its barns and fences. He blinked his yellow eye. Seems like a good place to check out the chicks, he thought as he launched himself off his perch.

The ladies of the hencoop greeted him with caution at first, but after an hour of his strutting and preening, succumbed to his amorous advances. He was a very tired rooster when the sun went down that night.

The farmer who saw the contentment on his chicken’s faces and the size of the first batch of eggs, put down extra feed for the visitor.

Red spent the following weeks assessing the attributes of each chicken. Mazy had a nice full breast; Delilah was energetic and ran around the yard, with him on her back, which added to his enjoyment. Sally had a fine pair of yellow legs. Each chicken in the farmyard had something that appealed to him. So, never a rooster to shirk his duty, he serviced them all daily.

One morning Red looked with jaded eyes at the queue waiting for his attentions and sighed.  After all, he thought, why stick with a few chicks when you can have them all.

Giving them all a last taste of Red magic he bid them adieu and went in search of fresh pastures.

Travelling the country became a way of life. As soon as he tired of one farm, the phone lines buzzed with news that Red had moved on. The immanent arrival of the tireless lover caused great excitement among the farmers. Chickens all along his route were dusted and spruced to catch the rooster’s eye.

Dawn had arrived and so had Red. He perched on the roof of a newly found hen house and shouted an enthusiastic Good Morning to the sleeping chickens beneath his feet. He stretched his neck over the side and fastened his eye on the entrance as the ladies filed out into the yard. ‘Brown, brown and more brown feathers,’ he sighed. ‘Like clones, brown feathers, yellow beaks and skinny legs.’ He gave a halfhearted crow, he was fed up with brown chickens and wasn’t that bothered if they noticed him or not. Perhaps I’ll move on. Emigrate. I wonder if Chinese chicks are any different?

He was just about to stalk off when something caught his eye. Framed against the dark opening of the hen house door, stood a white chicken. Red felt something unfamiliar stir in his chest. She wasn’t just any old white chicken she was magnificent. Brown speckles were strewn across her back like a cloak of jewels. The cluck that issued from her elegant outstretched neck was husky and seductive. She pointed a pink foot towards the wooden ramp that led up to the door and began her descent with slow dainty steps.

A crow rose from his toes and shook Red’s body as it exploded from his beak. ‘I’m in loooove.’

The noise broke the still morning air with such force that all the chickens fluttered and Red’s new love teetered sideways and fell off the ramp. She lay on her back for a moment and then with a screech and a whirlwind of pink legs she managed to right herself.

‘Oh, my love, my love, I didn’t mean to scare you.’ Red jumped down beside her and fluttered the dust off her feathers with his wings.

‘Peck off, you overgrown excuse for a cockerel’ She clucked with a marked American accent.

Red’s heart beat faster. a foreign beauty. Maybe not Chinese, but he’d heard those American chicks were hot! He circled her with short sharp steps. ‘My white angel, come under my wings and we’ll fly to heaven.’

‘Beat it, I’m not your white anything - my name is Speckles – Miss Speckles to you.’ Red scratched at the earth with strong, clawed feet. The dust flew up and rained over them in a misty beige cloud.

‘Hey, cool it Romeo!’ she said fluffing the dust from her feathers.

‘Romeo? You’ve heard of me then? Actually my name is Red. My ancestors came from your part of the world. Rhode Island, yep I’m a Rhode Island Red.’

Speckles pecked at the ground. ‘How original,’ she said in a withering tone.

Red experienced a moment of self-doubt. ‘ Well it’s just a nickname.’ He searched his mind for something to impress her. ‘I’m a Count, really. The Count of the Island of Rhodes.’

She stopped pecking and faced him. ‘Listen Buster, I’m going to lay it on the line. I read about you in the Poultry Times. Well, you may be the cock of the walk to these dowdy old hens, but to me you’re just chicken feed – nothing. I’m an IEE - Imported Experimental Edition of the original Old Speckled Hen and well known in literary circles. If you think I’ve nothing better to do than sit on some scratchy old nest and bear your outsized offspring – think again. I intend to remain Virgo intacto until I can get out of this miserable country and get back to where it’s warm.

‘But my Love, I’ll keep you warm!’

‘Peck off.’

There was a chorus of ‘Ohh!’ from nearby hens, who’d gathered to hear the argument.

Red felt his eyes roll. Here was a chicken worth pursuing – and intacto too! He crossed his toes, looked up at the clouds and chooked quietly. ‘Big Chicken in the sky, make her love me and I’ll never roam again.’

Over the following weeks the rooster did his utmost to gain the affections of Speckles, but she fought him beak and nail. The fighting was watched, not only by the farmyard animals who were taking book on the results, but by the farmer who was presumably rooting for Red in the hopes of a new hybrid as result of their union.

Although the rooster was strong, Speckles was quick on her feet and it wasn’t long before Red began to look the worse for wear as she darted in under his guard and delivered pecks so vicious, he was near to mortally wounded on several occasions.

He fell into a depression and several of his tail feathers fell out. He pecked at them sadly, ‘I’m dying of love,’ he clucked looking at her with tear filled eyes.

‘Get a life,’ she replied eating his share of grain.


The farm window was open and the smell of cooking wafted across the yard. Red lifted his head. Several hens were gathered in a group and clucking quietly.

‘What’re you ladies doing?’ said Red, more out of politeness than the need to know.

‘We’re all giving a eulogy,’ said the fattest of the hens.

‘Who for?’

Fat hen flicked her eyes away. ‘For someone who shirked her duty.’

Red pecked some dried flakes of blood from his chest. ‘Oh, yeah, who was that?’

Fat hen put out a sympathetic claw. ‘It was Speckles, Red. The farmer said she hadn’t laid an egg since he got her and all she was good for was the pot. That’s her cooking now. Don’t be too upset, at least she’s warm.’

Red felt his head spin. The love of his life was chicken stew! He vowed at that moment never to crow again.

Fat hen, although not interested in replacing Speckles in his affections, became his constant companion. She made it her duty to nurse him back to the rooster he’d been, when he entered the yard months before. She stroked his eggo and urged him to find another chicken and settle down.

‘I’ll never love again, Fat hen. It’s far too painful. I was best suited to the bachelor life. Love ‘em and leave ‘em.’

‘Does this mean you’re leaving us?’

‘Yep, seems as if my feathers are stirring again. Time to go back to what I was born for.’ He gave Fat hen a peck on the beak and her yellow legs blushed to a pale orange.

‘Bye, Red, take care – and if you’re ever this way again …’ chorused the chickens. Their words disappeared in the roar of the passing lorry that took him away into the distance.

A single tear dripped off the tip of Fat hen’s beak as she turned and fluttered back into the strangely silent farmyard.

The countryside buzzed. The rooster was once gain on the scene. Before the year was out, miniature Reds were strewn across the land and all, like their father, doing their duty with enthusiasm.



Tom leaned on the side of the water barrel and picked at his teeth with a matchstick. He drew his grey eyebrows together and scrutinized the yard. A few desolate looking hens pecked at the dusty ground as if remembering better days when Red was cock of the walk.

Daniel followed his gaze. ‘I know what’re thinking. What happened to my grand plans.’

‘Well, it had crossed my mind.’

Daniel sighed. ‘The best laid plans… Just a while back my farm was known for the size and quality of its eggs.’

‘Yep, must say those great big eggs and golden brown shells caught the attention. You sure as hell had the monopoly on that, with old Red.’

‘Had is the crucial word, he disappeared about the time you left.’

Tom’s head jerked round and he frowned. ‘Hey, I hope you don’t think –‘

‘No, of course not, the bugger snuck away. Before long, supermarket lorries were visiting every farm in the area.’

‘You never found him, then?’

‘No, he flew off, travelled across country and laid every chicken from here to the coast. With so many of his offspring around and jumping every chicken in sight, the bottom fell out of the market.’

Tom gave a sympathetic cluck and patted Daniels shoulder. ‘That’s farming for you,’ he said sucking at his unlit pipe.


In a field two hundred miles away, a pile of feathers fluttered in a salty breeze coming in off the ocean. A pair of scaled, yellow legs pointed towards the sky. The clawed feet moved weakly as if clutching at the passing clouds.

Red looked up at the sun with tired eyes, a smile on his rooster lips. ‘Who said you can’t have it all?’ he clucked as he slipped peacefully into chicken heaven.


Posted by littlewhitewolf on 07/09 at 01:44 PM | Permalink
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