This little guy was found stuffed inside a cardboard box, with no food or water, on a hot summer day, abandoned by a human(s) who felt this chicken’s life to be worthless.
I nicknamed him Little Big Man because that is what he was. Henry put no credence in being a bantam sized rooster. Size, most certainly, was not a factor in his thinking no matter what his plan was. Incredibly handsome in his appearance (his breed, the Chinese Shanghai Cochin, being bred for its visual aspect), Henry did seem to maintain a bit of narcissism. Roosters by definition can be very aggressive, protective, vain and boastful. And make no mistake, this Little Big Man was all of those things, but when held in your lap and offered bits of corn or mealworms by small children, Henry was tender and gentle with those little human hands.
Henry also took his job of mate and provider for his hen Penny, extremely seriously. When he found a morsel of food, no matter how hungry he might be, he would never eat it. His job, first and foremost, was to keep Penny happy and healthy. I grew to recognize his specific chortles and cackles which indicated food had been found. Penny of course, knew instinctually and would come running at a fast pace. If you’ve never seen a chicken run, especially toward food, than you’ve missed out on an extreme laugh-out-loud moment in your life.
Another laughable moment with Henry would be his warning dance. Though not meant to be anything remotely akin to humorous, one cannot help but smile at the serious and strutting warnings given by this little rooster. Henry, seemingly aware of his small stature, would puff his feathers out grandly in an attempt to make himself look so much bigger, ergo so much more frightening. Unaware that this movement did not add to his height but only added to his girth, Henry would then drop his wings and drag them on the ground in an attempt to make an alarming sound and begin his sideways walking. Thus, when faced with a fluffed up, wing-dragging, sideways-walking chicken, a marauder would change their mind and leave. Henry often showed this dance to us humans in defense of his hen, but I also witnessed him chasing off a cat, a sheep and a donkey with the same choreography.
Henry very much loved his companion hen and stood by her no matter what. This was never in more evidence then when we lost Penny. She had been previously diagnosed with uterine cancer and when her health began to decline, we took her to the veterinarian to be humanely euthanized. It brought tears to my eyes to watch and hear Henry call for her over and over again. For days he wouldn’t eat and would spend his time calling and looking for Penny. That was many years ago and Henry has since shared his life with other hens, playing his role as Night-in-Shining-Armor with all his might.
Little Big Man himself passed away a few months back, just shy of his eleventh birthday.
Never were there more perfect examples of how important and special chickens are then Penny and Henry. They have tickled my bones, enriched my soul and soothed my heart. How very sad for all of us, so many humans don’t know of the joy found in sharing their lives with the lives of chickens.