Happy is a perfect rooster. His feathers like silk are brown and white forming a scalloped design which in addition to being bright and fanciful are excellent camouflage on the cliffs of northern Mexico where the white and brown rock tumble to the sea. These shores are improbable looking as the rocks jut directly down the azure blue water without beach or warning, they simply drop. They are also known to be speckled with colorful plant formations tucked here and there between the rock. If Happy sat sunning himself there you would never see him. Even his feet have the color of faded buttercups and daisy’s whipped by the sea winds. He appears in every way to be a native son of Rosarito or some other northern shore where he might go undetected. He is as beautiful as his habitat.
Happy is also a satisfying specimen because all the antiquity of chicken DNA appears to run through him and instruct his perfect posture; head up, beak exactly level, chest out, feet slightly back under his flat stomach, his tail straight and long like a rudder but slightly tipped up as if in optimistic greeting. He is the kind of rooster a mom might brag about; “Oh yes, that’s Happy. He is very attractive but he’s smart and daring as well” she might cluck to her friends as he played thoughtfully with his hatch mates.
But Happy is not just those things, he is a fan of humankind. I don’t say this lightly. Most chickens in my experience are gracious and compliant, many are affectionate and joyful in their socializing with us, but Happy greets us in enthusiasm and admiration. He will roost gently on our hands and shoulders taking note of our fingers as we scratch and pet him. Happy can listen to us talk for hours and greets our songs cheerfully requesting yet another when one finishes by tapping our hands and gazing up. While he is not anatomically set up to smile since he has a beak he will look in our faces and his green eyes soften and sparkle as he smiles with them. He will even cuddle with his head tucked under our chins humming gently. Happy is a person’s kind of rooster who trusts all people and will come to you jaunting over and hop right on your lap the minute he meets you. So when Happy had something on his mind which appeared to trouble him, I took note.
We were herding the flock back into their aviary after cleaning it and changing food and water. They had played for awhile and it was bedtime. I admit it was rushed and we tapped the birds a little more quickly than usual to get them to walk back in. First came the puffy feathered little silkies who are always eager to go in their house and then we convinced Rosey to step in which is a bit of work because she is not a chicken who appreciates being picked up or dealt with in any kind of dismissive way. Rosey is dignified and that needs to be honored. Then we asked Henny, Happy’s girlfriend, to head home as well and she was ignoring us. When Henny wants to play or nap she is headstrong. She enjoys the good life and does not want anything to do with something getting her down. So Kyra picked her up and dropped her in the aviary under Happy’s watchful eye.
Happy never has a harsh word for his people, being a fan and all, so he cooperates gladly and does everything when asked. If you call him he comes, if you put him in his aviary he goes straight away without hesitation. When he was sick and could have died he allowed us without a lick of resistance to give him a shot in his chest twice daily. So picking up quickly and dropping him in the aviary did not seem to be a big deal. We got that wrong.
Happy clucked and paced around Henny looking at her as if he was inspecting her as soon as he got in the aviary. He noticed a feather out of place on her left wing and tucked it back in. Then he saw it. Henny had a small cut on her middle toe. it was more like a scratch but he inspected it at length, gently pecking then encouraging Henny to sit down by standing over her face. She seemed fine but he was concerned so she sat. Then he separated from the flock as they gathered near the back of the aviary and came to the gate. What happened next is somewhat shocking.
Happy turned in total profile, pushed his chest out, threw his head back and did the one thing we never saw coming, he crowed. Now I admit it was a bit like a guy going through his voice change because he got the first part out pretty well but his voice cracked and dropped off as he tried to finish. Keep in mind Happy is still a kid but his crow was dynamic and beautiful because he worked hard to get it out and he did it!
As soon as that crow escaped his beak his aviary mates tucked further back and sat as if in complete submission. Their guy had something to say and they supported his statements. He capped it off with a quick foot rake in the sawdust which every species recognizes as the statement to back off. Two feet raking is worm and bug hunting, one foot with a flurry of dirt or sawdust is a warning.
Then not being finished and wanting to push more power Happy crowed again. This time it was louder and the high note was higher with an echo of it immediately following. The finish was still a little rough because again his voice dropped off but it was an heroic effort. He kicked some sawdust, turned from profile and stared me down rooster v human while his friends hung back.
It must have been a tough call since Happy is a human fan and affectionately shows his love for us. But he had to speak up about the shoddy treatment of his girlfriend and her ensuing injury. It did not matter in the moment that he is far less than a pound, has no talons or weapons of minor destruction and has not a violent streak anywhere in his bony and beautiful body; he had to stand up.
Standing up is hard no matter who you are but when you’re a gentle creature in love with everyone standing up is more than an act of courage, it is a necessary choice when faced with wrong action. When you have not yet found your voice this is even harder. Happy did not know if his act of defiance would work. When he threw his head back he did not know if his crow would work. When the first one was spotty he gave it another shot. (I don’t want to be condescending in any way but it was extremely cute because it was not very loud or long and his stance was impeccable adding to its charm).
Sometimes you just have to find your voice right then and there and practice is not an option.
I’m glad Happy found his voice and I have too.
Post Script: Henny’s foot is fine. Her scratch stopped the tiny bit of bleeding it was doing and I suspect she’s pretty impressed with her boyfriend. Rosey seems a little bummed that she can’t crow like Happy but now she is clucking much louder and I notice more frequently. You all know our Rosey girl–she was determined to fly and mastered it so I suspect she’ll be singing Opera by the time she’s finished putting her mind to it. Sometimes you don’t know you need to find your voice until someone else does it.