By Maria Ditchek
For years I have wanted real live roosters. They are symbols of good fortune to the Chinese. To the French the rooster symbolizes bravery and boldness, to the Portuguese honesty, integrity, trust and honor, to the Italians, good fortune. In Italy it is traditional to give a rooster pitcher to newlyweds to protect them from danger.
The fascination with these creatures began years ago when my neighbor’s roosters foraged on our property and proudly crowed every morning. Annoying to some, to me it was a beautiful country song. As week-enders we could not take on the responsibility of owning and longed for a time when we would be full time residents able to satisfy our whim. Instead, I became an avid collector of rooster paraphernalia that I proudly displayed on my dining room walls.
Well, we did become full time residents and finally had the opportunity to gratify our whim. We were so excited when, in September, we purchased two New Hampshire Reds from a young man who raised show roosters. He was exhibiting many of them at the Delaware County Fair and proceeded to instruct us on how to take care of roosters, what they needed, how to protect them – it was Rooster Lesson 101. My daughter promptly named them George and Ringo. We could tell them apart by the color of their combs. George’s comb was a lighter red than Ringo’s. They were young birds, barely three months old. Their tail feathers had not fully developed and their vocal cords were practically non-existent. The fun would be to watch them grow their majestic plumage and to eventually hear them crow.
We had researched how to build a coop and in one day we had a cute little home for them made out of wood scraps left over from our barn addition. They enjoyed their surroundings and were inseparable. Where one would go, the other would follow. It was a pleasure to watch them.
We taught them to come to us by slapping our hands against our thighs, and boy did they come, especially when we offered them treats.
We were delighted with their friendliness and progress. Seeing them, one could not help but smile. Our friends and neighbors enjoyed them as well although they could not understand why “no hens for eggs”. My answer was that they were “live lawn ornaments”.
In late October their vocal cords started to develop and we laughed loudly at their attempts to crow. A strange sound, almost as if they had laryngitis.
We had been warned by so many of our friends that roosters become fodder for many nocturnal animals. But we were careful, or at least we thought we were. Unfortunately, not careful enough.
One morning in early November my husband went to open the coop and saw the carnage. One of our boys, George, met his misfortune via a weasel. Not only were we heartbroken, but Ringo was obviously in shock. He became morose, sad – didn’t eat or walk around the property. Just hung out on our porch or under the evergreens. He was totally lost, most likely wondering what happened to his brother, or perhaps reliving the gruesome events of the night before.
We decided that the best solution for Ringo would be to return him to our Delaware County Fair friend who graciously took him back and assured us that he would reintroduce Ringo to his group of chickens. We hope he will be happy there, among the hens and that he will be able to forget the ordeal he witnessed. We also hope that George is in Rooster heaven. ~