Major Nelson's Crow Collar
A Rooster Story
Major Nelson, our rooster, has been in training with his crow collar for the last four days. The crow collar is a simple device. I will explain it because I don't want you to think we are hurting Major Nelson. We are not. We have been careful in our application of the collar. We have now positioned the collar exactly right on his neck with the proper constriction and this took four attempts which involved the two of us catching Major Nelson as he emerged from the coop or as he retired for the night. Bruce held Major Nelson while I worked to position and tighten the collar a little more every day. On the last morning of the adjustments, I did this all by myself. Major Nelson is a very good boy during this and is placid and patient. There is no struggle. He is perfectly calm.
I don't want you to imagine any level of struggle in this procedure. Major Nelson is under no distress whatsoever. That's why I could do it all by myself holding him gently under my left arm and tightening the collar, which is a tricky thing, with my right hand. What's really interesting to me is that even though I am taking great care to explain this, some people may say this is cruel and they may even create a fiction of struggle in their minds that has to do with their trauma profile, their own bad experiences with related situations, and nothing much to do with Major Nelson and his collar. This is how trauma works. Trauma distorts our present perceptions in favor of a former lived experience that was disturbing. I don't minimize that former lived experience. I am just pointing out that it has nothing really to do with Major Nelson's collar.
The collar is a simple velcro strip about an inch wide. That is all it is. The velcro strip secures around Major Nelson's neck and the training period has been about figuring out how tight the collar needs to be to reduce the volume of his truly impressive song. The collar holds his vocal cords in place so that they cannot fully expand as he inhales to shout it out. I watched some videos on YouTube to learn how to do this.
I didn't know whether it was going to work for us because the videos I saw of the collar application resulted in a level of compression that made the crow sound uncomfortable and strangled. While this still might not hurt the rooster, I didn't want that for Major Nelson. All I wanted to do was soften his sound and to our great relief this is all the collar has done without any strangle sounds. Uncollared he belts out a perfect cockadoodledoo that is so pure and special. I didn't want to take that away from him. But reader it was so loud.
Major Nelson has another tune, an alert bark that is less satisfying to hear, and it goes on for a long, long, long time. He mostly does this to tell the hens to take cover under the bushes when he sees a predatory bird flying overhead. Before we had Major Nelson we lost several chickens and chicks to hawk attacks. Major Nelson is an excellent watchman and protector. He saved Ana the brown hen from a horrible attack that left her deeply wounded on her neck. She eventually recovered but she is left with a terrible scar on her neck that has disfigured her. Shecan'tgrow any feathers there.
So Major Nelson's alarm bark is purposeful and I understand that but my goodness these songs echo through the neighborhood. I can hear them from all corners of my mile long walk! My neighbors continue to tell me that Major Nelson's crow is not bothering them. They all say we live in the country and this sound is beautiful to us. So I finally admitted that it was me it was bothering.
Major Nelson has a right to his songs. I know that. But his songs should be tempered and quieted. I want to live with Major Nelson very much and that's the only way we can live together. For one the chicken coop is just outside my bedroom window. The music starts sometimes at four am. You might think the coop muffles the sound but you would be wrong in that. All day long, Major Nelson and his hens roam the perimeter of our yard and a fairly gentle playlist continues with the hens as backup singers. But when a hen lays an egg, she goes I laid an egg I laid an egg I laid an egg! All day long the flock sweeps around the house in a wide circle, coming in and out in concentric circles of happy foraging. It is beautiful to me.
The chickens rarely venture farther than a stone's throw. This fact was my first alert to the reality and power of an energetic field. Nearly seven years ago now I noticed our first three chickens Holly, Stella and Clemmy rarely stepped out of a fairly precise large perimeter around their coop when we started our small flock at our old house. When we arrived at Cedar Creek and expanded, it was the same.
One time, when we introduced three new chickens to the flock, Elsa, Ana, and Baby Margaret got miffed and wandered down the road but that was only one day. All the chickens are getting used to the expanding flock now. We recently introduced the Spice Girls -- the new brown hens Cinnamon, Clove and Nutmeg. I noticed no squabbles or miffed wandering because Major Nelson had come into his maturity by then and was monitoring the situation. I read that the rooster plays this mediating role. Without a rooster, hens are more petty and aggressive with one another.
Our bees are also teaching us fabulous things about energy. Listen to this: When a virgin queen emerges from the hive for her solo mating flight, she meets drones (or male bees) from distant hives at a point in space designated energetically as the drone congregation area. A single point in space. The drone congregation area. Wow.
This energetic point in space remains constant over many years, maybe forever, who knows? Drone congregation areas have now been verified as remaining constant for over fifty years. This is amazing to me. An established point in space where bees meet to mate. Of course fifty years is just the number given because someone finally noticed and decided to watch. But how do bees know where the drone congregation area is?
Of course it is energy and generational cellular memory. It is ancestral hive intelligence. The drones only do this once and the queens too. Worker bees and drones only live forty days on average and queen bees don't leave the hive again after this single mating flight -- unless they decide to swarm. It is built in ancestral hive memory.
Now a swarm is also a phenomenal energetic expereince. A honeybee swarm means a mature queen has decided, in consensus with the hive, to leave and rehome to make room for a new queen. The hive population has become too big. This is a way bees create more hives, diversify, and expand the bee population. It is natural and a swarm is a gentle thing. This is misunderstood in the cultural lore. A swarm of bees will not harm.
A swarm is different than upsetting a beehive which will definitely hurt you! In a swarm the mature queen has taken her posse, usually a good portion of the hive, and suddenly moved out. It is a dramatic and exhilarating sight to see upwards of ten thousand bees or more suddenly in flight. The ensuing drama remaining in the hive is positively Shakespearean. The remaining hive is in the process of cooking up several new queen candidates in special queen cells --feeding them royal jelly --and these new queens will emerge in the days following the swarm.
Often more than one virgin queen will be hatched. If this happens, it is a battle royale. The two virgin queens make a beeline for one another and have a fight to the death. Sometimes if one queen emerges before the other developing queens hatch, she will go to each queen cell and sting it, killing the unborn competition. This is high drama. Shakespearean, as I say. Of course none of this was recorded until fairly recently. Thomas Seeley out of Cornell University is researching and writing fantastic things about honeybees.
What a marvel of nature. Honeybees are just wonderful teachers of total awesomeness. The Hive Mind is a real thing. I could go on and on about bees 24/7/365. My brain split wide open and fell to my shoulders when I began to understand bees. I am borrowing this image from a fabulous nature writer, Annie Dillard, whose essay "Living Like Weasels" is a stunning literary contribution that is a powerful monument in my mind. She gets it.
I have come to understand that if I want to learn about energy in nature, if I want to learn about the reality of my natural universe, I need to forget the lectures and books and hit the woods or the meadow or the beach or the mountains. I need to hug a tree. I need to go any place away from the Disorder and just watch, listen, learn and open myself in silent gratitude and wonderment.
Walt Whitman writes of this in "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer":
When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
He gets it too.