Roo and his bitc…uh…girls.


I was in my bedroom when I heard a hullabaloo outside my window. I opened my curtain and saw my entire flock of chickens huddled under the low branches of a tree. At first glance, I thought one of them was standing outside of the group, but upon closer inspection, I saw it was a hawk. It was almost as if he was sizing up which hen he’d like to have for lunch.

I ran out the door and waved him off into a neighboring tree, and the flock took their opportunity to make a break for the chicken house, a good 200 yards away. Only one hen remained frozen under the tree; it was my oldest, and definitely my smallest girl. She’s the best mama of the whole bunch and has hatched numerous chicks for the group. She was under the tree, and the hawk was in the tree. She wouldn’t have a chance, especially since there was no way she was going to let me catch her and carry her to safety, but she had a secret weapon – Mr. Rooster (it’s pronounced “Roostah”).


I’ve been allowing my flock of chickens to free-range this summer, which means I always have an ear open to any unusual noise. We live on a couple dozen acres frequented by fox, hawks, raccoons, etc. I haven’t worried too much because the 14 sister-wives are always accompanied by their very devoted husband, Roo.


Now, Roo is about 8 years old, which is, oh, 126 in chicken years. He wobbles when he walks and often gets knocked onto his side in their morning rush to get out of the chicken house and look for the first worm. I encourage him and sometimes give him some help back onto his feet. He shakes it off, and heads out behind his ladies, stumbling, but upright. He attempts to reestablish his mojo by “chasing” a couple of them around, almost falling over in the process. I can almost see them rolling their eyes and tittering, but they tolerate him.


The old fella is very accommodating towards the hens, often finding a choice morsel or unseen blueberry and clucking them over before he ever takes a bite. They eat first while he hunts around for another treat. After witnessing his solicitousness towards them, I promised he’d never fear the cooking pot as long as I was around.


So old, rickety Roo was under the tree with equally old Mrs. Hen, and they were 200 yards from safety. I stood nearby and tried to encourage them out. Unfortunately, chicken brains are so small they can only be seen under a microscope (joke, kinda), so they didn’t see the big lady holding a manure rake as any sort of protection. They took their time and Roo began to talk her out from under the tree.


It took about ten minutes, but finally she emerged. Roo and I kept our eyes on the treetop, and Hen kept her eye on Roo. They made their way back, wobbly step by wobbly step, out in the open and exposed. The other hens were in the henhouse crying warning and encouragement. Every once in a while he’d give them a yodel of acknowledgement, but he never left the single hen’s side. I have no doubt he would have fought that hawk to the death, for two years ago he did just that – the hen died, and Roo was crippled for two weeks and almost died himself, but the hen died in the chicken house surrounded by her sisters. That hawk did not get to haul her off.


When she was about ten yards away from safety, she broke into a run, and Roo did his best to keep up with her. They all made it safely back, the hawk was foiled, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. (They appear in the video below – heart eyes emoji)


I guess there’s nothing more to this story than that, except that it got me thinking that I have a few folks as loyal as ol’ Roo in my life – folks who stick with me when things get hairy, who don’t run from danger or trouble. When all heck is overhead, they stay with me under the tree until I’m ready to brave it, then walk by my side while I get to safety. I’m grateful for you folks – I think you know who you are. And I’m super thankful for a broken down old rooster named Roo, who taught me a thing or two about loyalty.