We were alerted, one evening in the summer of 2011, to the fact that a chicken had been abandoned. He was living wild in a neighbour’s barn. This was not the first time we had been called to that barn to rescue abandoned roosters.
Simon is probably the result of back yard breeding for the purposes of showing bantam birds or for egg laying females. Breeders frequently feel overwhelmed when half of a hen’s offspring are male. Because males crow and make noise they are sometimes regarded as a nuisance, even in rural areas. In the wild male chickens usually live with about eight females. When there are equal numbers of male and females in the confined conditions of a breeder’s yard, they fight due to competition for the females. This can lead to serious injury and death.
We managed to catch Simon and take him to safety at Eden. However, to our great consternation he escaped several times. He lived for three weeks, alternating between the orchard and roosting on the combine harvester at night. We greatly feared for his safety. But Simon is an independent spirit and his introduction to the other residents at Eden was not to be rushed by our human hands. In his own time he eventually approached them, and tentatively ingratiated himself into their community.
Today he lives amicably with our oldest rooster, Mike, and twelve hens. His special friend is Hanna. Every morning he accompanies Hanna around the pond picking at pieces of grass and drinking fresh water. Simon is a great companion to the hens when they lay their eggs. He gets into the nest first and moves his body around in a circular motion, all the time vocalising to the females. Then he gets out and keeps them company indoors while they take his place in the nest and lay their eggs. They seem to appreciate his endeavours.
He is a very gentle rooster, and is highly interactive with humans and with the other hens. Like all chickens he is always busy and appears to be very cheerful. We cannot know for sure how successful these chickens would be at rewilding themselves. Their natural, undomesticated selves seem to be very much to the fore, and the abandoned males we have rescued survived very well in the wild for several weeks before we rescued them.