The Misunderstood and Much Maligned Rooster 12

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20130502LBD (Rooster)

Once I started to raise chickens in my backyard, it didn’t take long before I started thinking about where the rest of my food comes from.

The eggs from those birds – and their meat if I chose to use them that way – is the product of what I provide for the chickens.  If the soil they eat, or the water they drink, is laced with pesticides and chemicals, the food I eat will bring those pesticides and chemicals right into my body.  If their space is filthy, or I force them to live in a non-natural condition, I effectively put poison and bacteria onto my dinner table.

From the moment I first take food to the hens at sunrise, to the moment I pick up their eggs at sunset, I realize the truth of this adage:  you are what you eat.

Two things happened with this awareness.

The first thing that happened was that I began to question what is in the rest of the food that I eat.  Big corporate conglomerates process and package “food products” that really aren’t really food at all, and then try to market it to me as food.  While I don’t often know the conditions that “food” is processed or packed in, I do know that life as a pig or chicken or cow raised for “human consumption” is not really something most people want to hear about.  (And I haven’t met the person yet that can explain to my children why we want our food raised like this).

The second thing that happened was that I began to see my chickens as partners in a food cycle.  I help them with shelter, food and water; in exchange, they provide me a constant and unwavering supply of healthy food.  The better and more natural I make their environment, the better the food that they give me.

Inevitably, the question arose: will a rooster in my urban flock help my hens to live healthier and produce better food? (My wife will tell you that this is a very convenient question, as  I truly think that Roosters are one of the coolest animals on earth).

Very little is known about roosters – we tend to have a very one dimensional image of the bird.  That image centers on noise:

  • In rural folklore, it is their noisy crow which signals the coming day and rousts the farmer from bed.
  • In the Christian faith, the repetitive crow of the rooster is a prophetic harbinger of the coming betrayal of Jesus by his disciple.
  • In City Councils around the nation, the rooster’s crow is the un-written reason why he is barred from entering the city limits.

The fact of the matter is that we know very little about the deeply textured personalities of Roosters that go way – way –  beyond a crow.

They lead hens to fresh and clean food – and steer them away from that which should not be eaten (hens are notoriously stupid and non-discriminatory when it comes to what they will try to eat).

They stand on-guard, from sunrise to sunset, alerting the hens of lurking predators and dangers: not just with their crow, but with their wings and beaks and talons.   If the predator is a real threat to the rooster, he will move the flock to a safe place while he prepares to fend off the threat.

They fertilize my girl’s eggs so that I can have – at any time I need it – access to fresh meat and eggs. (Without having to rely on mail-order eggs laden with salmonella).

They clean the hens and the coop.  They meticulously comb their hens for dirt, and dig the dirt holes the hens need to bathe every day.   Since the rooster is more agile than a hen, they can catch flying insects and bugs that baffle the slower shorter hens.  In fact, since we’ve had a rooster in our coop, there has been nary a mosquito, fly, palmetto bug (roach) or other insect within 2 feet of the coop.

They are affectionate.  A rooster that is touched by its human keeper every day from hatching to adulthood will recognize its human keeper as a companion and an ally in defending the coop.  Many times, a Rooster has alerted me to a danger that he needed me  to help with. And he comes to greet me every time I enter the coop, walking side by side with me as an equal.

In reality, the biggest complaint you have about Roosters – their  crow – is no louder than a barking dog.  Yesterday, I measured the sound level of your barking dog –  separated from me by 3 houses, two 8′ wood privacy fences, and 200+ feet of air – at 82.5 dBA.  The rooster’s crow at 50 feet from its source coop – before it crossed all those obstacles – 70.3 dBA.

Neither your barking thing or my crowing thing appear to be in violation of any city noise ordnance.

I don’t recall signing a contract when I moved to the city that said  your need for silence was greater than my need for healthy food – or greater than my right to procure and provide food for my family free of the poisons in the commercial “food” supply.

I certainly don’t recall signing a contract saying that I wouldn’t challenge laws that I disagreed with (like those banning roosters in city limits) or that I wouldn’t challenge those laws that I thought exceeded the authority of government to put in place.

There are 2 sides to every story: laws that prevent me from providing my own food supply are as annoying and disturbing to my home as a rooster’s crow is to your home.

The only contract we have is to do our best to live side by side – different as we are.

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