One hundred-fifty percent attitude packed into a banty body, that's Antonio Banty-Deras. Three years old, he's our longest living free range chicken. The first commotion of the day in the chicken yard and the last ruckus at night, you'll find Antonio at the bottom of it.
Antonio begins his day aggravating the penned roosters. He struts, he preens, he crows. He takes a dust bath as close to the wire as he can; flopping, rolling, and kicking up dust which drifts into the face of the full size roosters. Four times his size, the big roosters are "clapping" their wings and clawing at the wire, Antonio flings himself at one, spurs outstretched. The big "roo" goes insane, clawing and striking at the wire. Antonio slowly prances off, crowing in triumph.
He spends his day alternating between teasing roosters and eating. Its wonderful when he can steal someone else's food. Chickens here get kitchen scraps and greens for variety, and food in cages with larger mesh is a target if it gets within reach of Antonio's beak. He'll stand outside a cage waiting for a morsel to get close to the wire and ... snatch! It's his. Out of beak-reach of the offended bird, he slowly picks and swallows the snack one morsel at a time. He'll steal greens from cages even though he has a world of fresh green plants around him. It just tastes better spiced with offended screeching, I suppose.
Antonio's secret to long life is his ability to reach a high roost to sleep at night. Generally he sleeps in a tree in the animal area. As the sun sets, Antonio makes ready to roost. He flies up to the top of a rabbit hutch, accompanied by the deafening "cheers" of the flock. Next he flies to the lowest branch, six or seven feet above. "The crowd goes wild!" He works his way up higher into the branches about 20 - 30 feet from the ground. Settled in next to the trunk, he makes a final crow and dozes off. The Chicken Cacophany Choir peters out, and settles in to sleep.
There have been a few occasions in which Antonio's roost was in poor taste, specifically in a tree over Art's truck. The truck was painted with bird droppings; Art painted the air blue the next morning. Antonio was encouraged to sleep elsewhere that evening.
The worst spot he chose was the porch, up in the rafters. Warm, dry and out of the wind, it was the best place he'd found. I couldn't agree because he painted the porch floor. That bird was determined to sleep there. Art chased him down, and then off the porch with a broom. Antonio screamed curses all the way out into the night, and up into his tree. The next night he was there again. A repeat the chasing and screaming of curses - from both.
The following night we went to our writers' group and returned late. I'd walked over to check something in the porch kitchen (in the dark) when a shreiking, feathery demon flew down from above, buzzed my head, and flew into the night. I screamed! When my heart stopped pounding, I figured it was Antonio, caught in the act. I must have frightened him, too, even without a broom.
He didn't return to the porch that season, but eventually winter will return, and he'll try the porch again. The broom is waiting for Antonio and his outsize attitude.