Allow me to introduce Albus, our Light Brahma rooster. Albus is almost three years old and has exceptionally beautiful feathers that grow clear down the length of his legs, covering his ugly claw feet. We welcomed him onto our “mini-ranch” when he was just a helpless, fluffy chick and we were still unsure of whether he was a rooster or a hen. Obviously, at that point, since we were anticipating eggs, we were hoping to get lucky and discover that all eight of the chicks were female.
It became clear very soon that Albus was not female. However, with only one rooster in eight chicks, we considered our flock a success and enjoyed their adolescent months. With horror stories of feisty roosters and some personal experience of our own, we decided to love on Albus from his “chickhood,” thereby breaking the stereotypes and forming him into a gentle rooster. We would stroke his feathers and cradle him close as he grew. One of my daughters spent long periods of time sitting in the coop and talking to Albus, as well as the hens.
Somehow, our restorative therapy went wrong, and today Albus is determined to uphold the bad reputation of roosters everywhere. No matter how we tried to acclimate him to our presence and make him realize we held no threat or ill-will, it didn’t take. When Permanent Roommate has to enter the coop, he uses Captain America as a role model, advancing with a metal garbage lid before him (instead of an adamantium-alloy shield), with which he repels Albus’s furious attacks. Somehow, whether by body language or smell, Albus has seen me as less of a threat, but I still grant him a respectful distance and close him in the outer coop as soon as possible, before I’ll turn my back on him or get cornered inside the main coop area with him. He would like nothing better than to take a running, flying leap and dig his spurs into your arm or leg or whatever body part is most vulnerable.
We’ve talked many times of how tasty Albus would be in a pot of chicken soup or maybe with BBQ sauce slathered on him. He is a formidable size and would easily feed our family of four. If all this talk of eating Albus is horrifying to you, let it be as evidence to show you the extent of his murderous intentions, that we would even discuss it. He truly is the terror of the chicken coop.
Yet, in spite of our talk, there has been no serious action taken against Albus. Frankly, he is too beautiful. With his bright white plumage, accented in black, and the soft tufts over his feet, he is majestic. When the sunlight hits the dark feathers, it is reflected into multiple shades of green and blue. He is half again bigger in size than any of the hens, and he struts around the coop like he owns it.
Still, if there is one, sole redeeming factor that has kept Albus with his head and feathers intact, it is this above all else: he has twice saved the hen-house from raccoon attacks.
Last night was the most recent of his heroics. Woken from a deep sleep at 4:00 am, by Albus raising the roof, I bumped Permanent Roommate and whispered, “Something’s bothering the chickens!” This was a repeat performance of several months ago; we had jumped out of bed then, to find two fully grown coons pacing at the fence of the coop, with only Albus and the chain link standing between them and the hens.
This morning, Albus was at it again. This time, only one coon was thinking of having a chicken dinner, and Albus, bless his heart, was not having a bit of it. In all his white-feathered glory, he was crowing and cackling and flapping his wings and stomping his feet and rushing the fence and holding off that coon as if he knew his life depended on it (which it absolutely did). But more endearing to me than his courageous defense of his own person, was his defense of the hens. There was not a squawk from inside the house; they were roosting in mortal fear up on the bar, and without Albus to raise the alarm and go to war for them, they most likely would have died right where they perched. He was out on the front lines, with no regard for his own safety and no thought of cowering in the corner.
Logic tells me the chain link fence was the real barrier, the ultimate hurdle stopping the coon, and that had he been able to breach the fence, it would not have been a long fight. My heart tells me that with Albus standing between the coon and the hen-house door, it might not have been a long fight, but access would have only been granted over Albus’s dead body. And for that, Albus has earned my gratitude and respect and a stay of execution for the duration of his natural life. In spite of his inability to tell friend from foe, he has proven his mettle and won my affection in defending his harem. I think he would literally die for those hens, and while he may be more motivated by his own selfishness in them being his hens rather than “love” for them, the end result is the same: all my hens are accounted for and the coon was held at bay until backup arrived.
That’s the ultimate you can ask of a Protector, whether it’s a soldier on watch, the policeman on duty, or a leading member of a household. Laying down one’s life in the service and protection of those who depend upon you is the highest sacrifice one can give. I was reminded of that this morning, at 4:00 am, when Albus the rooster, refused to go down without a fight, when he raised such hell that not one of his hens was injured. Four hours later, he was still pissed, herding his “women” back into the coop as soon as I approached and showing his willingness to take me on if I pushed in.
The fierceness in his actions. His beauty. His underdog status that he refuses to acknowledge. His sacrificial, territorial instinct. Somehow, I am endeared to the crazy old bird and look forward to him living into old age, safe here in our coop. And if the occasion ever calls for me to do the same, I hope I show the same bravery and determination.