When did I become a male chicken?

 

“Chick, chick, chick, chick.”

Silence.

“CHICK, CHICK, CHICK, CHICK, CHICK!”

Little red hen heads pop up from the brush on the side of the yard, and fat hen bodies start waddling their way over to where I am. When I step forward, the hens turn in unison and head into the chicken run.

I push the door open further to allow my much larger human body into the run with them, and I distribute whatever treat I brought for them. It might be leftover pizza crust, or some apple cores, or mac and cheese. In a fit of largesse, I may have picked some blackberries especially for them, or the heads of wild grass that are heavy with seed. Whatever I bring, they scarf up like they haven’t eaten in a week, despite the fact they’ve been loose all day pecking at anything that moved.

And then it hits me – I’m a male chicken.

My hens trust me. Like any good rooster, I call the hens when there is something especially good available to eat. I create a safe place for them to be. When they call out in distress, I come quickly to deal with whatever intruder is bothering them. If one is missing at evening, I walk around looking and calling until she is found and rounded up where it is safe with the others. When a falcon decided my yard was a good place to perch, I stood outside between it and my hens until it decided there was no free meal here and it left.

I have sharp eyes, quick feet, and a call my hens recognize and respond to. My “spurs” are a pitchfork, my powerful “wings” are the back of a shovel, and I have a long-lived dedication to my flock of hens.

No matter that I’m a female human, to them I am their very own rooster.

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