I love all my animals, five cats, three dogs, four geese, 13 ducks and 25 chickens. They’re part of the family though the birds don’t live in the house with us. At least not permanently. When they’re a bit poorly, I’ll bring them in for some TLC until they’re well enough to go out.
Sometimes though, you just know when they’re not going to make it.
Gregory Peck Jr, my much loved cockerel got that look they get when they’re old and their time is near. They stare into space vacantly, don’t come when called and go off their food. You know then, that old age has caught up with them. So it was with Gregory Peck Jr.
I’ve had him a long time and he was no spring chicken when he came to me from a neighbour who was going to eat him. We were sitting in her kitchen chatting, and as I sipped the strong French coffee she placed before me, the sort that strips your tongue of its fur, a cockerel started crowing. He had the most melodic cock-a-doodle-doo I’ve ever heard. Low and deep, but soft and musical. If Luther Vandross was a cockerel I reckon that is how he would sound.
“He drives me mad” my friend said. “I’m going to have to put him in the pot. My old man and me get no sleep. He wakes up early and goes to bed late and he doesn’t stop that racket all day long”.
I got up to look at him through the window. He was a big one. He stood proud, glossy black feathers mixed with green and gold and red. He swivelled his head to look at me and I swear he locked eyes.
“I need a cockerel” I said to my friend “I don’t suppose you’d swap him for some baby artichoke plants”.
“I love artichokes” she said, “You’re welcome to him”.
I went home with a huge cardboard box in which a large bird shook with indignation. I didn’t need a cockerel of course, I have more than enough, but I couldn’t bear the ending to his story.
My girls loved him. They flocked around and cooed and clucked. He was good to them. Summoned them when there were treats and like a real gentlemen, let them eat first. But he ruled the pen with a firm beak. When a new baby cockerel turned up in a batch of what were supposed to be females, Gregory let him be, but he had to know his place.
We called the baby Roger Moore. The runt of our rooster clan he was doomed to roam the pen alone. However the other roosters have all escaped into the garden with their little harems. And now with Gregory Peck Jr gone, Roger Moore has inherited the girls. I don’t think he can quite believe his luck.
Every cloud has a silver lining I guess…