It started with a choked cry, like a child begging escape from a crib. “What is that?” Erik mumbled. We turned away from the sunrise and stole a few minutes sleep before the alarm clock demanded our attention.
The next day the cry was louder, and earlier. And in a few days more it sounded suspiciously like a cock crowing at the sun. “It can’t be.” I scoffed at Erik. “Hens make rooster-like sounds, but the real thing is much louder than that.”
And so it was. Each day our backyard alarm became more raucous and insistent, the neighbors became increasingly frustrated until I had to face the fact: Betsy is a rooster.
When the chicks were two days old Mary and I were dismayed to discover Betsy lying limp and lifeless in the tub. I panicked, scrambling for an explanation, a way to keep Mary (and myself) from crying– I couldn’t take one more loss. But as I cupped the limp yellow chick in my hand I felt the slightest of movements, of life. We spent the rest of the morning on the bathroom floor, warming Betsy in our hands, begging her to live.
And she did, by the next day she was scurrying about, cheeping with the others, “You’re noisy!” Mary cooed to the tiny chick. Perhaps that was our first hint…
As the crowing increased we began trapping Betsy in the garage at night. Each night, as I retrieved Betsy from the coop the hens gathered round to impede my actions. Betsy scurried to the far corner while the others scolded me. She’d crow her heart out as the sun rose and I let her out around 8 a.m. (because that’s enough sleep for anyone, isn’t it?). The hens clucked and cooed when Betsy joined them in the yard– they’d missed her/him.
And every morning Erik prompted, “Find a home for that crazy rooster today!”
But how do you give away a favorite? The chicken that Gabe told stories to and that Mary chases around the coop? I guess you just get desperate and take her/him to Wheeler Farm on a Sunday night and cry, “Go! Be free! Avoid the man with the axe!”
I’m sure he’s fine, strutting across the farmyard and crowing at the sun. But I’m not quite confident enough to go back and look.