Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

when the big bad roosters play nice

Most of the chickens and roosters either don’t mind being picked up, or they want to be left alone, and will scoot out of reach if you get too close. Then there are the ones who will follow you around and peck at your boots or go after your camera. And then there are some, like Speedy, who can be either!

Speedy arrived at Poplar Spring within a day of another rooster, Simon, who is the absolute sweetest rooster that I’ve ever met. Simon will follow you around and beg to be picked up. Speedy is tricky, because he looks quite a bit like Simon – they’re both White Leghorns, and they’re the same age. Speedy will sometimes let you pick him up, but when you do pick him up, you never know if he’ll peck at you afterwards. Unless you are Dave, in which case he is all sweetness and light.

speedy, about to peck at the camera

speedy, about to peck at the camera

The first time I ever held Speedy was one sunny day last winter, when Dave picked Speedy up and said “do you want to hold him?” I of course insisted that he’d peck me, but Dave said he wouldn’t. And Dave was right. I stood there in the sun with Speedy snoozing in my arms for ages, and he was happy as could be.

Saturday, though, he let me pick him up and then he pecked at me. One of those days! So I put him down, and Dave walked into the barn a couple mintues later, scooped Speedy up, and Speedy was so happy he looked smug. Dave ended up putting him on one of the perches under a heat lamp. Later, as I carried a newly cleaned and refilled water bowl into that part of the chicken barn, I held the bowl up to Speedy so he could take a drink. He must have been thirsty, he drank quite a bit. I had to quit when my arms started shaking. Those bowls are heavy enough on their own, let alone filled with water!

A few minutes later I was back in that part of the barn, this time to fill a couple bowls with chicken feed. I looked up from the can where the feed is stored to see Speedy on the perch right next to my head and looking very interested in what I was doing. I didn’t hear him move to that perch, but he must have done a quick flying and landing maneuver while my back was to him. Luckily it was the food, not my head, that he was interested in. I put a small amount in my hand and held it up to him. He went for it eagerly, so I put a small pile on the perch next to him.

I’m going to feel so used when I go back on Saturday and he’s mean to me again!

Another of the roosters who had a change of heart (also temporary, I’m sure!) on Saturday was Hermie. When Hermie first came to the sanctuary as a couple day old chick, he was super sweet. I was reminiscing this weekend about how he’d run up my back and hang out on top of my head, the wispy weight of his little feet almost impossible to detect.

young hermie

young hermie

Then he grew up a bit and wasn’t interested in hanging out with people. He had too much to do and see and girls to court!

He’s only a few months older than the five now-grown White Leghorns that came together as chicks. Two of the five are boys, and three are girls, and I have a really hard time telling them apart. Perry and Harrison are the boys, and I mostly can tell which is Harrison because Perry is a bit like Speedy (mean), while Harrison is like Simon (sweet). Perry and Harrison also look a lot like Hermie, so while I can pick out Harrison by his sweetness, I am never sure if the non-Harrison is Perry or Hermie.

hermie, perry, or harrison dustbathing

hermie, perry, or harrison dustbathing

So, Saturday…one of the three young boys was right near me, hovering in a way that generally means either “pick me up” or “I’m suckering you into trying to pick me up so I can peck your hand.” I cautiously moved towards him, watching for the sudden movement that tells me a peck attempt is coming, but he just stood there waiting for me to pick him up. Confident that he was the sweet Harrison, I scooped him up, and he snuggled against me. If they could purr, he would have been.

Terry walked by and stopped to say hello to the sweetheart falling asleep in my arms. And then the surprise.

“That’s not Harrison,” she said, “that’s Hermie!”

We marveled over the fact that he not only let me pick him up, he had practically asked me to pick him up. Hermie! I’d think that maybe he was reverting to the sweet boy I used to know, but I think that he was just cold, and was more than happy to make use of my body heat. I held him for a few minutes, as he snoozed, and then feeling a bit guilty about standing around cuddling roosters while there was work to be done, I set him down on a bale of hay.

Expecting him to put his legs down to support his weight, I was surprised when he didn’t. Thinking that he was sitting down as I set him down, I started to let go once he was fully on the bale, and he started to fall over, and then suddenly he startled awake and stood straight up, fluffing his feathers. I knew he’d been snoozing, I just hadn’t realized how asleep he had been!

Cold, it was, but at least there were some benefits to be found!

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2 responses to “when the big bad roosters play nice

  1. nothoney December 10, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Aw, I love this post. You’ll have to show me how to properly pick up the chickens. I’ve only been pecked once and it wasn’t awful but I hate to upset them.

    I did have a crowd around the water bowls while I was scrubbing and refilling them last weekend. As soon as I’d fill one, I had a customer and they’d go from one freshly filled bowl to the next, sampling I suppose.

    s.

  2. Deb December 11, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I’m not sure I’d know how to teach someone to pick up a chicken. Just practice on Simon – he always wants to be held!

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