A Visit From the Rooster Hobo

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Photo by Carol Ann Sayle

We're used to city folks dumping city pets at the front gate of our rural farm, which is 80 miles from Austin. As a result, we have a lot of cats living at that farm, and we've brought puppies to our city farm stand to be adopted by kind-hearted customers. But, at our urban farm in Austin, we're seeing another possible phenomenon, the dumping of country-style "pets," specifically, roosters!

With the economy in the, ahem, toilet, folks are turning to innovative measures to insure that they have a reliable protein food source in their back yard: chickens' eggs. So they get a bunch of what they think are "hen chicks" and, whoa, a "hen" turns out to be a rooster! Well, their neighbors, more sanguine about the future, turn surly when this fellow starts crowing--a sound most melodic to me--but to some one who hoped to sleep one more hour, a terrible nuisance...

What can be done to keep peace with the neighbors? First of course, the "farmers" try to find someone who desires a rooster, but predictably, they fail in this quest. We get many calls offering us a rooster. Perhaps, miraculously, we don't already have one, and even if we do, naturally we want more of them.

To put that matter to rest, yes, we have one, Rusty Roo the Rooster, and believe me, one is perfect. Rusty is the watch chicken for our hens. Like a buck or a stallion, he stays alert to danger and advises the hens when they should quit searching for food and beat it back to the hen house or other cover. Rusty also woos the hens, and we are reassured that if we ever need to hatch out chicks, Rusty will make sure this happens.

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So, imagine our concern when, one day last week, a strange rooster made his way from the bus stop at the road in front of the farm to our Hen House, and started courting our hens. Rusty, enraged at this arrogant intrusion, engaged the stranger in a stand-off of neck-feather unfurling and stabbing beaks separated only by the Hen House fence.

Our favorite pets, Tootie J. Tootum, Delilah, and the Starlet were outside the Hen House on Doctor Pepper's first visit. He danced for them and picked up fake food tidbits to try to lure them away, but our faithful hens know they are privileged, so they ignored him. Frustrated, Doctor Pepper, whose crow sounds like the name of the soda pop, went back to sparring with Rusty.

The next day, I didn't allow the pet hens out, as I was afraid that perhaps they would believe him and follow him into temptation and be lost to us forever.

But what to do about Doctor Pepper? In the summer months I let out all of the chickens so they can forage the entire farm. It would be terrible if Rusty Roo was locked into a death match with the smaller but more fleet-of-foot Doctor.

Finally, the solution. One of our helpers, Jesus, offered to take him home. How he caught the Doctor I don't know, as I was busy in the farm stand. But he did.

I never asked about Doctor Pepper's fate. Better not to know.