Q. You and Mr. Clucky are celebrities in Miami Beach, Florida. How did you two meet? Tell us your story.
A. In late September of 2006, while bicycling in a part of my neighborhood in South Miami Beach, where I’d often see the remains of Santeria ritual animal sacrifices, I found young Mr. Clucky in the bushes. There was a cut on his cock’s comb, and his beak was removed close to his face. A white leghorn rooster, probably culled from an egg farm, could not survive without camouflage or a beak to forage for food in a South Beach neighborhood. So I took him home and did the best I could to help him out. At the time, I couldn’t find a veterinarian who would treat him or a shelter that took in roosters.
I gave him water, and after a few days, the little rooster I thought was almost dead came around and started eating. He bonded with me after I let him play with my hair. Three months later, soon after his beak had partly restored itself [very young birds’ mutilated beaks sometimes grow back], I took the little rooster I named Mr. Clucky, in a box, on a bicycle ride in the King Mango Strut parade in Coconut Grove, as part of the Critical Mass Bike Group’s presentation. He was very popular. Since that day, Mr. Clucky won’t sit in a box but rides on his own accord on my handlebars. Very well known and loved in the community for his bike riding talents, he’s a mascot for our bike group and an outreach celebrity for the local chapter of EarthSave.
Q. Please tell us more about Mr. Clucky. What is his personality? What does he like to do?
A. Mr. Clucky is a bright, cheerful, good-natured little friend. He loves to ride on the handlebars of my bike, watch the birds, socialize with people, and have a cool drink of water, and sun himself at outdoor cafés. He likes to play in his sandbox. He likes hanging around with me, and he makes people happy.
Q. According to Mr. Clucky’s website, the two of you have been favorably featured on the Travel Channel, CBS National News, the cover of the Miami New Times and other media. Why do you think people and the press are so drawn to Mr. Clucky?
A. There is a joyful innocence and novelty in a fluffy white rooster with
a big red comb, comfortably riding on the handlebars of a bicycle in the
city, that cheers people up. Many people relate lighthearted stories of
birds they knew in their childhood, or remark that they’ve never seen a
rooster up close before or knew they had personalities. The press sees this
as well, and the positive effect Mr. Clucky’s presence has on the public.
Q. Chickens are brutally victimized by the billions for their flesh and eggs. Each year, the U.S. egg industry alone trashes over a quarter of a billion “Mr. Cluckys” as soon as they hatch, motherless, in mammoth industrial incubators. Under these circumstances, what is Mr. Clucky’s larger meaning and message? How is Mr. Clucky an Advocate and Ambassador and how do you see people responding to the bigger issues he represents?
A. Little Mr. Clucky is a survivor of a brutal system in which animals are ruthlessly mistreated. A little trooper in his own joyous way, Mr. Clucky puts a face on some of these creatures and helps to give a voice to those who are allocated to torturous modern warehouse farms where they have no voice. In response to kindness, Mr. Clucky has been able to shine and bring smiles to millions as an advocate for better treatment of his kind in his daily life and at special, earth-friendly events and in the media.
Q. In a letter, you said that you grew up on farms. How has your upbringing affected your relationship with Mr. Clucky and your work on his behalf?
A. When I was very young, I spent summers at my grandparents’ home in Switzerland. The neighboring farmers shared our pastures and kept cows and goats in our barn. The animals seemed happy and well treated. The chickens had good homes and were able to run and play in the grass.
When I was older, I lived in Southern New Jersey where many people were involved in the rodeo. I cared for horses and cattle and acquired some chickens. I saw a harsh disconnect between the Swiss and American methods of farming. A brutal disconnect with the animals and the land and the cruelty of factory farms ruthlessly processing living creatures such as pigs, cows and chickens for profit. I did not wish to participate in financially supporting these practices and became a vegetarian. So many years later, finding a wounded bird who came from the system that led me to my decision, it seemed - although I wasn’t sure I was prepared to care for a rooster in the city - I would do for him what I could.
Q. In 2009, you were served with a summons to evict Mr. Clucky from Miami Beach. Why? Please tell us about your effort to get the Miami City Commission and the Mayor to grant you an exemption to current codes excluding “poultry” from the city.
A. I was cited by the city of Miami Beach under the “Keeping of Livestock Prohibited” law. I went before the Special Master’s Court stating that my birds, Mr. Clucky and Wallflower my guinea hen, were “pets” within the regulations of my condominium (“birds, no more than three, total weight under 25 pounds”). They were not being farmed as “livestock,” i.e. raised for food or profit. Neither did I need the special permit required for dogs or macaws if you were breeding them.
The judge insisted I need a permit for special exemption from the City Manager applicable to animals used in circuses and shows and the like for “limited amounts of time.” I got letters of good conduct of my birds from my neighbors. I wrote a request for a special exemption from the Mayor and City Commission, and had a sympathetic meeting with the Mayor and City Attorney, who promised to take it up with the City Manager. My neighbor, a criminal defense lawyer, filed for a circuit court appeal, and we are waiting for a response on the exemption from the city.
Q. What do you want people - all of us - to learn from Mr. Clucky? What does Mr. Clucky want us to learn and to do?
A. Mr. Clucky is a fellow spirit on the earth facing his life’s challenges. He has awareness of himself and the world around him. He feels pain and sorrow and joy. He appreciates those who are kind to him and he cherishes the kindnesses that life grants him. Time for him as for us and all creatures is questionable and temporary. Grant all these fellow voyagers kindness.
Mark Buckley is a carpenter and earthrights activist known for his 7-wheeled creation “Frankenbike” which he rides with the Miami Beach biking group Critical Mass. He told a reporter, “I found Mr. Clucky around the same time I was putting together Frankenbike, and he loves to go out on rides.” To learn more about Mark and Mr. Clucky and how you can help, go to MrClucky.com.