Portrait Gallery 12


Buddy is an Ameraucana rooster, and the first chicken I’ve ever met. I’ll never forget the first day I met him, I was interviewing for a volunteer position at a small horse rescue outside Salt Lake City. The manager of the rescue, Catherine, was assessing my experience with horses, but Buddy was right there too, one amber eye fixed on me as he casually pecked the ground. I had the distinct impression I had two interviewers. I even remarked on it, saying that Buddy seemed very social, Catherine simply smiled and agreed.

The horses were the initial draw to that volunteer position, but once I started working there I found myself intrigued by Buddy. He would come running over in the morning when I arrived, often on the attack; prepared to defend his small herd of retired horses fearlessly. He always settled down after I started actually working, usually working side by side with me, as I cleaned enclosures. I found his company delightful, his happy vocalizations as he hunted and pecked were very soothing, and I loved it when he crowed periodically. I had been aware of the unmitigated misery of the vast majority of chickens in our modern world for some time, so I took great pleasure in knowing such a happy bird. He charged purposefully throughout the rescue making rounds each day, inspecting enclosures, monitoring volunteers (attack mode seemed directly tied to volunteers standing around talking) and communing with horses.

After two days with Buddy, I found myself so intrigued by him that I told Catherine that I wanted to write a book about him. I asked for permission to photograph him, and I asked about his history and how he came to the rescue. Catherine told me he had been dumped at a feed store, most likely by someone who had made a mistake about his gender. Catherine rescued him by bringing him to the equine facility.

There was a young woman who was employed by Catherine who handled much of the day to day operations of the rescue. She watched over Buddy with great tenderness. His bachelor pad, sheltered by the barn, was clean, and airy with heavy wire mesh fencing to protect him from predators. He even had a nice view across some nearby fields, and a straw filled house higher up to roost in at night. Each day Tracy would offer him various treats, bits of cheese and fruit mid-day, he was particularly fond of pommegranite seeds. After his lunch, he would take a brief siesta in a straw filled feed can, before starting his work for the afternoon. He happiness with his situation was palpable, he clearly loved his role at the rescue.

I’ll never forget the day Catherine offered him a special treat and called me over to see his reaction. She had ordered some fly predators for the barn, and sprinkled a few on the ground for Buddy. When he saw them he was so excited that he couldn’t eat. He actually did a rooster dance of joy. There is no other way to describe how he moved around his treat. You haven’t seen joy until you have seen a joyful rooster. Actually, his delight was infectious, the three of us found ourselves unconsciously mirroring his head movements.

One day I was fortunate enough to actually hold Buddy, Catherine asked me to grab him when he charged a garbage truck. I gently scooped him up taking him out of harm’s way, and was amazed at how soft, light and warm he was. I view him now as a cherished friend. How chickens ever became anything other than companion animals puzzles me. They are curious, social and wonderful company. Buddy even formed bonds with the horses.



Joanne Wagner