The Mystery of the Golden Rooster, a Thrashing, Trashing Tale

by the creator of Henderson's Handy Dandy Chicken Chart
Sage Hen Farm, Lodi, NY

One evening, toward the end of April of 2015, when I went out to collect eggs, I knew something was wrong in the hen house. I could tell by the turmoil the cocks and hens were making -- disturbed chicken noises, chasing, jumping, and thrashing about. I discovered a stranger in the far corner a large rooster with golden feathers, fully feathered from head to toe. I knew my breeds well enough to be able to identify him immediately with certainty as a Buff Cochin rooster. Some of his feathers were awry, and he was as agitated as the other birds. He wasn't actively involved in a cock fight, but he might have have recently lost one. At least he wasn't bloody. I had no idea how he might have gotten there, since we had been gone all day at work.

cochin in dog kennelI told Margaret, and she was concerned about biosecurity. We had no way of knowing what diseases, ticks, lice parasites, or other spreadable ailments he might possess and might share. Once it got a little darker and things had calmed down, I moved him. He was easy to pick up. His puffed up feathering had made him appear huge, but as I held him he felt a bit scrawny. I moved him to a large, unused dog crate in the garage. There he had food and water and more than triple the space that most factory hens live in.

cochin near hen houseWe immediately started speculating on how he got to our place. The bedraggled, but once handsome cock could have been a neighbor's bird who just wandered over. He could have escaped from a passing vehicle. Our chickens free range, so there is no mistaking we have chickens, and it sure does look as though they are living a good life, so it wouldn't surprise us of someone with an unwanted bird might think our place was a good place to drop one off. Once several years ago two men, an elderly man and his adult son, pulled up in a van with three Blue Andalusian chickens had done just that, but at least they asked first. Perhaps this was a similar situation. I didn't think it was too likely that the Cochin cock belonged to neighbors, but we figured we had better check.

It was a few days later before I got around to checking. When I did I gained a partial answer, but discovered an even deeper mystery.

It was late morning as I was tidying up around beds of daffodils when I saw a sheet of paper trapped in a nearby briar patch. It appeared to be a school assignment of the son of neighbors who live up the road. The paper was weather-damaged and probably not recent, but I thought returning it would give me an excellent opportunity to inquire about the rooster. The boy whose name was on the paper answered the door, so we settled that matter very quickly. Before I could ask about chickens, however, the boy's mother said she had something to tell me.

Cochin by redbudShe told me that she had a story about one of our chickens that I might not be aware of. A few days before the driver of a garbage truck stopped in front of their house. He was concerned about what he saw in the camera monitor of the back end of the truck (I had no idea modern garbage trucks were so equipped). What he saw was a rooster thrashing about. He got out and tried to free the bird but was unable to. He ask our neighbor for help. Our neighbor called her father, who lives one house away, and with his assistance, he extricated the poor chicken. He was roughed up but looked uninjured. Our neighbor logically assumed it was one of our birds. Ours is the only free ranging flock nearby, at least the only one with fancy breeds, and this was no ordinary chicken. Further evidence was that the rooster first appeared in the truck's monitor immediately after it went by our house. Without a second thought, the neighbor's father brought the bird "home." We weren't home when he arrived, so he simply deposited him in the hen house. At this point, I interrupted my neighbor and told her, "Now I have a story for you. He's not our rooster." She laughed and said she looked forward to telling her father this extra twist to the tale.

We now had an explanation of how the rooster appeared in our hen house. Our neighbor's story, unfortunately, does not explain how, when, where, or why a Cochin rooster got into the garbage truck, nor who owned or was responsible for the bird. The driver appears to have been the only crew that day, and he would never have gone far from the truck. When the driver first noticed the rooster, the poor thing was thrashing about in the compactor, so I can't imagine he could have been there long. Did he jump? Did he get into a garbage can by mistake? Was this the result of a cruel act?

Since then, I also checked with other neighbors -- got to meet some of them for the first time -- but no one is missing a fancy chicken or knows of anyone missing a fancy chicken. The Lodi Whittier library serves as a community center, and the librarian, who raises some unusual chicken breeds herself, and no one from the community has reported a missing rooster nor has heard of a grieving rooster-less family.

cochin by the roadThe rooster, dubbed Pantalons d'Or [French for pantaloons of gold] by Margaret, is only marginally getting along. After close to a week, we determined that he wasn't a major biohazard to our flock, so we released him. He hasn't tried to go home. He doesn't mingle with the flock, but he also stays out of fights and doesn't molest our hens. He spends a lot of time by the roadside, so perhaps this is a habit from his old days. If so, would this mean there is more likelihood that he had opportunity and jumped into a garbage truck or a garbage bin set out by the road?

John and the CochinHe seemed to almost be limping at first, but we decided that it is just his odd gait. He has a very upright posture that seems to be forward leaning. He may or may not be smart enough to come in out of the rain. During a recent rainfall, when the other chickens had gone inside, he was standing lonely under a black currant bush that didn't seem to be keeping him very dry. He roosts in the garage, often on top of the dog crate where he spent his first days with us.

He seems to be gaining weight with his diet of whatever he can find while free ranging. He haven't seen him near any chicken feed. When I've picked him up, he doesn't seem so scrawny. He is getting better looking every day, except for his hind end which isn't very clean.

We had no need for another rooster or a Buff Cochin, but dear Pantalons d'Or served as one more beautiful, mobile lawn ornament for a few years before he departed our world. Writing in retropect, I can't remember how he met his demise I don't think we culled him from the flock purposefully,

This page written and maintained by John R. Henderson [jrhenderson9@ gmail.com]. Last modified: January 21 2020.