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By Kim Sandusky
I live on the tropical island of Guam, where the sun shines year round, and cockfighting is legal. Throughout the island, chickens roam freely in the villages and on the streets. In April 2006, I was taking an evening walk through my village of Asan when I came upon a lone crying chick. After looking around for the mother hen with no luck, I took the chick to my yard. The next morning, I found the little black chick chirping on top of a warm sock and a pile of rice left by my neighbor. Realizing the chick’s strength to survive, I moved it into a covered cat box lined with towels and a stuffed monkey for warmth and comfort. It wasn’t long before the box was moved into my house and the chick became Winnie Cooper, my sweet little hen who cried to be held and kept warm at all times.
The box stayed in the bathroom, away from the prying eyes of my five cats. Soon Winnie Cooper was able to hop out of her box and explore the bathroom. Every minute of my time at home was spent making her food and holding her. Winnie Cooper cried and demanded to be held by standing on my foot or in front of me, bobbing her head and squawking until I picked her up. At times, I had to tuck her into the fold of my robe just to have my hands free around the house. We enjoyed daily walks outside where she followed me everywhere, amazing my neighbors who eventually embraced and loved her. Soon everyone in the village knew about the blond female with the pet chicken, unheard of on the island of Guam.
Outgrowing the bathroom, Winnie Cooper moved onto the balcony. June approached, and I had plans to travel to the states on a three week holiday. A friend agreed to look after my animals, including the fast growing Winnie Cooper. Excited to return home, I opened the balcony door to see my dear sweet hen who recognized me right away and ran to be held. As soon as I picked her up, she gave me an excited greeting by letting out a loud, although not fully mature, crow. My little black hen was now a big black and white rooster! No doubt, Winston Cooper missed his human mom.
Cooper continued to live on the balcony with frequent visits inside the house, but eventually he integrated outside fulltime with the other chickens. Forsaking the balcony, Cooper chose a spot next to a potted plant at the top of the stairs that lead to my front door. Every night he was perched in his spot by 6 o’clock, and faithfully crowed throughout the night. His crowing was comical and sometimes unbelievably loud, but it was also a great comfort. For the next year, Cooper roosted in his nightly spot where I greeted him with a pat or his favorite snack of brown rice. During the day, Cooper had worked his way to the top of the pecking order and accumulated many hen followers.
One evening, I came home to find Cooper’s spot empty. Panicking, I asked my neighbors, who said, “Kim, he probably has a girlfriend and is sleeping in the trees.”
Sure enough, early the next morning, I recognized his crow and went outside to find Cooper giddy and flocking around me to show off his new girlfriend. He rarely returned to his sleeping spot after that. Instead he slept proudly perched high in the tree next to my house with all his buddies and lady friends.
No matter how much time passed, Cooper always ran to greet my car, wanted to be held and never stopped loving his human mom. He knew his name and my voice, and he would always stop what he was doing and run across the yard when I called him. At times, he still followed me up the stairs and into the house, to eat cat food and perch on his balcony, until another rooster started flirting with one of his hens, and off he would go to protect her. A few times kids tried to steal Cooper during the cockfighting fiestas, but my neighbors and I were able to protect him. He was so big and handsome, he caught the eye of everyone around.
A fond memory I have is walking down the road with Cooper tucked in my left arm, the leash of my friend’s dog in my right hand, and my elderly neighbor leading his pet water buffalo, Lucy, with our three outdoor cats following behind.
Sadly, Cooper recently fell ill and, despite medication, he passed away peacefully on his balcony surrounded by love. He was buried in the yard with his stuffed monkey, a bowl of brown rice, and a letter thanking him for all the joy he brought to my life and telling him that I loved and missed him. Cooper was truly a dear friend, crowing and all.
Originally published in Poultry Press, United Poultry Concerns.
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