The continuous crowing of a rooster awakened me about 5 a.m. one morning in the spring of 1998, and like it or not, there was a repeat performance every morning thereafter. The puzzling aspect was the absence of a farm for miles around my apartment complex, which is next to a wooded park and a lake. Just by chance, while approaching my car one morning, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a moving object a few yards away. Getting closer, to my amazement, there stood a jet black hen, and alongside her was my 5 a.m. troubadour, a striking, colorful, statuesque rooster.
After seeing them for a few days scrounging for food, bugs, or whatever they could find, my concern for their welfare deepened. Children frightened them throwing objects, and meaning well, left popcorn and other foods perhaps unsuitable for chickens. So I began to leave corn kernels and a fresh bowl of water every day. Gaining their confidence was a good feeling, as upon my approach, these inseparable birds would trail behind me. After a few days of searching for a secluded safe area, I successfully guided them to where they could not be seen from any side, it was so well hidden.
Weeks later, a thrilling and heartwarming sight came into view in the form of 14 black and white baby chicks, with momma and papa at their side. As I left extra food and water, a new fear arose. Chickens can escape predators by flying into trees for safety, but the chicks were in great danger. Often during the day the family would strut close to the walkway areas, which put them in danger.
My calls to rescue groups led only to other rescue groups. In my mind, there had to be a place willing to make a home for this family, but so far, nothing emerged. Now these birds were my responsibility, and I was determined to find them a home. They were my adoptees and I gave the rooster the name Chucky and his mate, since she was jet black, I called Midnight.
Weeks went by and then a tragedy hit. My heart filled with sadness to find that someone was seen taking the hen and several of her chicks but failed to catch Chucky. A few days later the rest of the chicks were gone, perhaps taken by the same thief, or by crows or cats. During the following weeks, my Chucky wandered lonesome and forlorn, looking for his mate, crowing more than usual, calling for her return.
As the summer came to a close, Chucky and I bonded in friendship. He followed me, ran to me, and waited for my presence every day. Seeing a stranger he disappeared into the brush, and returned when they left. Chucky walked alongside me to our hideaway, gratefully accepting his meal and replenished water. I made more phone calls, spoke to people, and repeated this procedure over and over again.
Eureka! Finally I located a home for my boy Chucky. We were approaching the second week of October and the end of good weather. After some difficulty I found a large cage. Chucky would not allow anyone, even me, to touch him, but since I was his friend and protector, the responsibility was mine to gently cage him. My plan was as follows: I attached one end of a 9 foot string to the fully opened cage door, let it dangle loosely and held the other end while walking to my car. Then I would wait for my pal to walk in the cage.
Chucky refused to enter but tried poking his beak into the cage and reaching underneath it to reach the food. He walked around and around, coming back to me for the food. After Id spent over an hour holding the other end of the string 7 feet away, he got his wayI fed him and gave up for the day.
We repeated this scenario a second time, but once again I gave in to him and took his food from the cage to the ground outside. A few days letter, October 14th, I felt lucky about luring him into the cage. I camouflaged the string with brown leaves that had fallen from the trees. Leaning against my car holding the end of the string, I prayed he would enter.
After repeating his walk around the cage several times, he walked to the opening. He leaned in, then put one foot in and the other followed. He took the final step in and the door slammed shut. I cannot measure the happiness I felt knowing that he would now be safe and happy. As I spoke to him softly, Good Chucky, youre going to be okay, he gurgled to me and I felt that my words of consolation to my friend were accepted. Through the grating I poured chicken feed, which he proceeded to devour, chooking his pleasure.
I am delighted to say that Chucky now resides on a 4 ½ acre property. His living quarters are in a large barn which he shares with his harem of seven hens. I have a bittersweet feeling being so happy for him and, at the same time, forever missing my pal.
Acknowledgement This true story is dedicated to all animal lovers, people who take time out of their lives to help in any way they can to prevent the abuse of birds, dogs, cats, and other creatures who need help. I sent this essay to radio host Suzanne Dragan, whose show The Pet House airs on WCTC News Talk Radio, 1450 AM, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, each Sunday from 10 a.m. to Noon. Harriet Stoller
(UPC Editors Note: Suzanne sent Harriet Stollers Story of My Chucky to United Poultry Concerns president Karen Davis, who has been a frequent guest on Suzannes weekly program dedicated to educating listeners to love and better understand their fellow creatures with feathers, fins, and fur. UPC is grateful for the opportunity to share this story.)