Remembering Beloved Birds
An inspiration for the founding of UPC was a charming article by Barbara Monroe, of Great Neck NY, about her rooster, Lucie, several years ago. Barbara had never really seen a chicken until her daughter bought a baby white leghorn rooster from a peddler three years earlier. To Barbara, "The most amazing thing about Lucie was the way he adapted to suburban life, sitting in a car like perfect gentleman or on the sofa watching TV with the family." I had the privilege of meeting Lucie when my husband and I visited Barbara. I particularly remember how Lucie stood sentinel outside our guest room with his noble bearing, watching over Barbara and the home of which he was a beautiful and cherished member.
Merry Caplan, of New Orleans, responded to my call for essays about companion chickens when I started UPC in 1990. She told how her rooster Chuck "sits next to Charlie the hen while she lays her egg and announces the event with a series of Cock-a-doodle-doos!" In January, Merry wrote that on "December 28th, we had to put our beautiful Rhode Island Red rooster to sleep. Chuck was my faithful friend throughout his life. He sat on my lap while I wrote my dissertation and never failed to express his love, appreciation and general happiness to be alive. He will be missed so very much by everyone who knew him. But every golden sunrise we will be able to remember the beauty he brought us." Chuck was six years old.
In 1992, PoultryPress (Vol. 2, No. 3) ran an article, "Commanding Skippy," by Melody Wall of Arcadia CA. She described learning to handle Skippy's change from a lovable chick to a fierce white leghorn rooster. She agonized, but "Instead of giving up, we kept working together, learning each other's behavior." On January 25, 1996, Skippy died in his garden among his three hens. Melody wrote in his memory: "When Skippy and I met, I knew nothing about chickens. He knew nothing about people; but we learned. Throughout my life I will often recall the way he ran up to me every time I called him, the way he chattered in response when someone sneezed, the way he'd get as close as possible and crow as loud as possible when we were on the phone. I'll remember how he protected the hens and always gave the food to them, never taking a single grain until they were through. And how he seemed to be at every window always watching, always interested, always there. That high-pitched sound he always made when I said 'good-night, Skippy, I love you.'
"Thursday morning I heard his last crow. This morning I lay in bed crying at the silence of the morning. 6:30 a.m.--his crow would always call out to my heart.
"Now I have three sweet hens, and I will get another rooster, and he will bond with the hens, as it should be. But, for a moment in time there was Skippy, and he was my bird, and my life has been changed forever."
Petal & Lettie
I would like to place the memory of these roosters beside my memory of Petal and Lettie, who were inseparable friends at our sanctuary until Petal died on October 30th at six years old. Lettie, who died on January 25th, was closer to sixteen! She'd lived all her life with Ann Lander until Ann got sick and called UPC to help find homes for her birds. Just imagine Ann's shock when, on a freezing day in January 1994, she found that Lettie had been living all by herself inside what Ann thought was an empty henhouse for almost 2 months! Lettie, a small, spry, light-brown hen, was sturdy and active until last fall, when Petal died and it got cold, and Lettie's body literally began curving towards the ground. My best memory, though, is seeing Petal, Lettie, and our tiny bantam rooster, Bantu, seated together on summer afternoons beneath the big evergreen tree on a cool bed of pine needles, keeping each other company.