A Rooster Tale

Way back in June of 2017 this little golden fluffball showed up at our house. He was brought to us by our friend Cari. She had taken some eggs into the local kindergarten class. ONE hatched. At this point she didn’t have a set up for chicks at her barn. Goldie joined the ‘flerd’. We didn’t know if Goldie was a hen or a rooster.

He was a lot smaller than the others. Behind him you can see Lily and Maple. In a year they would become his hens to lead and protect. At this stage in my life I knew NOTHING about chickens … other than they were the only meat – besides fish – that I felt comfortable eating.

Goldie and I discussing the day’s plans on the front porch.

Goldie grew up to be one of five roosters in our flock. Five of seven. Needless to say – life was becoming a bit harried for Maple and Lily. Life had also become very complicated for Goldie.

The rest of the roosters decided he was a pariah. There was an uneasy peace between the four of them – but let them get a glance at Goldie and he was in for a beating!

He was safe if I was around. The roosters picked up on the fact that he was my sidekick. Where ever I was – there was Goldie. For the first year of their lives the flock free ranged the paddocks, the woods and our yard. They were somehow able to know how to stay close to home. Not sure how they figured that out?

When I was inside or away Goldie would make sure he was no where near the roo flock. If they were out back – he was out front. If they were in the paddocks, he was around the house. He spent a lot of time sitting on our front window sill. (By the way – by this time Edie had ALSO learned to stay out of sight of the roosters. They somehow were able to hear when she would come out the front door – even though they’d be with me in the back paddock. If she headed to the mailbox out front they’d slip under the gate and ambush her before she could make it back to the house! And don’t get her started on the day Ivan chased her across the front porch and right into the living room!)

I also discovered that there was no way Goldie could sleep in the coop at night. When I would try to integrate him he would literally hide his head under my arm so that he couldn’t see the roos and they couldn’t see him! We had tried a ‘cage’ inside the coop. A ‘cage’ inside the run. Until finally I figured out that he was safest sleeping in the garage. I would carry him in at night, put him up on the sill and provide him with food and water. (I didn’t realize then he wouldn’t be eating at night …!) In the morning I’d wake up first thing and go take him down. He couldn’t jump down on his own as he didn’t figure that out for another year. I think that was because he really had poor eyesight and depth perception. That was obvious the first (and only) time he tried to run at Edie’s legs in the paddock. He ended up clobbering himself because her leg was a lot closer than he thought! Knocked himself arse over tea kettle – right onto his back. When he got up he just mumbled and complained to himself and walked away.

Eventually the other roosters outstayed their welcome. And Goldie became the champion and sole survivor. He LOVED having the company of his hens. It was really something for me to learn how much of a rooster’s behaviour is instinctual. Here was Goldie – raised by people – scorned by other chickens – and yet once he was hanging with Lily and Sophie he took on all the regular rooster jobs. He would be the lookout (which IS funny considering his poor eyesight) when they were out free ranging. He developed a real ear for the sounds the Blue Jays and Chickadees would make. When they sounded an alarm – so did he. When he would find bugs, or tasty greens he would make his soft ‘woop – woop’ sound to call the hens. He always gave the treats to them. I don’t know when he ever got his own?

He would also talk to me. Yep. I mean that literally. I’m certain that for the first part of his life Goldie was very confused about whether he was ‘people’ or ‘chicken’. Eventually he settled on a little of both. He would look me right in the eye and talk to me like I was one of the hens.

He had sounds that meant ‘pick me up’. He had sounds that meant ‘you must have a peanut in there somewhere’. He would call me to come walking in the woods. He would call me to get out of bed and bring breakfast and open the coop door. I introduced him to my friend Leslie one day. She is very much an animal whisperer herself. Shortly thereafter she arrived with a great book all about how chickens talk! Loved it!

He also had a special grumble he used when Rosie would try to move him off my lap in order to get her turn at cuddles. 😉

He had grown up to be a glorious shiny proud dude who totally owned every inch of our little Meadow kingdom.

I never took it for granted when I would find him cozied up with his girls. It was such a magical thing that our poor little orphaned yellow fluffball ended up with his own flock.

He was the BEST ambassador for guests and my ‘junior farmers’ alike. He had his chicken flock and his people fans.

I’m so glad I got to befriend such a great character. He DID push me over the line into no longer eating chicken. I cannot bear the thought of supporting an industry that puts such creatures through hell. I know now that each one of them has a personality, wants, favourite foods, friends… They can love soaking in the sunlight, roaming in the woods, eating delicious bugs. They should not spend what little life they have in cramped cages or barns of thousands.

I’m sure that someday, when I cannot remember what I had for breakfast or what day of the week it is … I will still have very vivid memories of my buddy Goldie. The rooster that made me part chicken!

So it was with heavy hearts that we had to put Goldie down today. He had become very sick over this past while – especially this past week. We tried a number of treatments and lots of love. Yesterday he rallied a little – enough to raise my hopes the tiniest bit … but enough as well for me to recognize that this might be the ‘brightening’ before the end. I’ve seen that a number of times before … When I went to carry him into the Chicken Palace this morning I could see he was feeling terrible. I knew then that the kindest thing I could do for my friend was to end his suffering. It seems the hardest part is getting to that decision. His end was quick. He was laying in the sunshine in his favourite spot and didn’t have any idea that the end was coming. I will not go into the details. Just suffice it to say we were relieved that his trials were done.

He sure was a special part of our Meadow family. I’ll always be grateful that I somehow ended up with a good buddy who was also ‘part rooster’.

So long pal.

Love from the Meadow Mice