When I was a dirty-footed toddler, I came THIS close (half-an-inch or so, depending on your browser) to getting my diaper kicked by a cranky leghorn.
My mom would breathlessly tell the story of how she happened to look over just as he was running towards me, a look of determination on his beak, and his spurs shining in the sun, aimed straight for me.
Just before he was about to pitch a jab, my mom picked him up and gave him a drop kick only a soccer player could appreciate.
Because of this, as you could imagine, I had icy feelings about roosters for most of my life.
Fast forward many years later when we decided to add more chickens to our own backyard flock, and the off kilter, Craigslist-chicken-keeper, former marine selling hens from his poultry-dominated Matawan, NJ backyard said he’d give us this sweet deal:
Buy 12 hens, get a rooster for free.
“Free fear,” I thought, “nice!”
Now, this fellow swore that having a rooster was key to coop survival, and since we’d just lost nearly our entire flock to predators, we paused in consideration.
This Cooper Trooper had a bunch of roosters, and a neighbor who dodged eye contact in an obvious way as he went outside to fetch his mail. It truly was chicken central, and as he gave us the tour of the various breeds and little coops he had built, I could not help but notice that he eyed the ground like a chicken – head cocked to one side, bottom eye supremely directed.
“Me in a few years,” I surmised.
We accepted his offer for a huge Rhode Island Red rooster he called Gentle Ben, claiming he was a real sweetie pie.
“Yeah right,” I thought.
He stuck him in a rabbit cage and loaded him up in our Jeep. To our surprise he cock-a-doodle-doooooo’d the whole way home.
We had no idea what that meant.
Ben adapted to his new home seamlessly. He made trills when hawks flew overhead to alert the hens, who would then scurry under bushes out of sight.
He had this immediate and fantastic affable wisdom about him. He ate sunflower seeds out of my hand, and gazed into my eyes as I scratched his chin.
We took vacations to Paris, and read each other Rimbaud into the wee hours of the night…
Ben single-handedly reversed my fear of roosters, and every rooster we’ve had after him has been kind as well.
Because animals have feelings! If they sense fear, it will set them on edge and they will react. This is the same for people, but animals can’t hide their social anxiety by pretend phone calls. They still hang on tight to their instincts.
It’s important to share this experience because so many people have said to me, wide-eyed, “You have a rooster?! Oh! Roosters are so mean!”
Yes, they are mean if you get up into their biz! Toddler Lauren was most likely baby-talking nonsense to that leghorn trying to pet his face.
Whether you’re a fox or a human – if you abruptly get into a rooster’s personal space, you can expect a territorial reaction.
check out this cricket-finding sweetie pie
But, if you relax and do your own thing and be a passive observer, they really appreciate that (who doesn’t?).
When someone shoves a flyer in your face for ½ price tickets at some awful comedy club near Times Square, do you:
The point of the matter is that fear is such a holding back factor of having your own honest experience. Getting over my fear of roosters was a small, yet immediate example of how important it is to have your own insight before making a judgment. Plus, it’s a really wonderful ego softener to connect with fluffy animals.
One day they might even invite you in.