The life of a rooster

Simon, the gamecock, rules the roost at S.C. Coastal Animal Rescue and Educational Sanctuary in Georgetown.
Simon, the gamecock, rules the roost at S.C. Coastal Animal Rescue and Educational Sanctuary in Georgetown. For The Sun News

Meet Simon, one of the resident roosters at the S.C. Coastal Animal Rescue and Educational Sanctuary in Georgetown.

Thankfully, a lot of humans are beginning to realize that animals are sentient creatures. Just like humans, they have instinctive needs/desires, fears, likes/dislikes, moods and personalities. Simon came to us as a little bitty rooster almost a year ago. As he grew, we continued to handle him in hopes of helping him become friends with humans.

Simon is a gamecock, and sadly, roosters are very territorial and will fight just to establish hierarchy. Because of the ease for them to fight, people have made an ugly competition of this, calling it a sport. Thankfully, the outcries of this cruel practice have brought in authorities to shut down these places. It’s a blood sport that these poor creatures did not agree to participate in. Yes, they would fight ordinarily but not in the same way and continuously to the death as with cock-fighting rings.

Simon and the other roosters start the day off singing. It’s as if they’re so excited it’s a new day — we could probably take a lesson from them. Crowing is a welcome sound in the morning here. Once the day has come alive, it’s time to start scratching around looking for bugs. Roosters, as I have seen, have three primary goals in their lives — to find food for the hens that they claim as their family; to protect those hens at all costs, even if it means their death; and finally, to procreate, which most animals instinctively desire to do.

I’ve witnessed roosters scratching around, looking for bugs, and once one is discovered, they will cluck out to the hens to come get it. They keep a watchful eye on the bug as to not lose sight of it until one of the girls gets to it. Here at SC-CARES we give treats such as grapes, watermelon or apples to our chicken family in addition to their feed mixture. Roosters are such gentlemen that they will wait to make sure the hens get what they want before taking any for themselves. They sometimes go without while the hens are taking it all.

As we walk around on our tours, the hens that are in the back area will be walking around, too. As long as humans don’t irritate the hens, Simon will pay no mind, but let someone act like they’re chasing or trying to pick up the hen, and Simon will come running, almost taking flight. He would charge the intruder and then circle his hen as if to say, “I’m here, you’re safe now.” Even against true predators, the rooster would be front and center to try to scare off the danger to keep his girls safe. Roosters would sacrifice their lives to save the hens — now that’s dedication.

If Simon is in a good mood, some of our tour groups are lucky enough to pet him. If he allows me to pick him up, then we gently give him love touches. People are able to touch his wattle and his comb, which feel like rubber, and also admire his beautiful colors in the sunlight. We never force the issue with Simon; if he doesn’t want to be picked up, then we let him be. Knowing that most people have never touched a chicken makes my heart happy to be able to give them the experience.

So many people are intrigued and amazed with Simon that they cautiously touch and examine him, feeling his soft feathers, his rubbery wattle, his scaly legs and sharp toenails. Experiences such as this are part of what SC-CARES is all about. To understand our animal friends and make the connection so many have lost or never had, and teaching respect for all creatures, is a big part of our mission.

To visit SC-CARES and meet Simon and the other residents, check www.sc-cares.org or call 843-546-7893. Donations to help care for these animals are graciously accepted through PayPal on the website or by mail to SC-CARES, 236 Abbeville Drive, Georgetown, S.C. 29440. We’ve operated by the kindness of others for nearly nine years now, and we are so grateful!