Norman the Rooster The handsome man himself Norman came to me through some very strange and altogether unlikely circumstances. His story is rather long, so bear with me. I can only be thankful that it's my ownership he ended up in. As some folks around here know, I am very fortunate to work at a family-run poultry-centric feed store. Aside from the usual dealings of selling feed and pullets, we are known locally as "the chicken people" and we have lots of folks come to us seeking advice or looking to rehome roosters. I wouldn't say we're hugely well known, but we manage to stir up some good chatter in local chicken circles. Unfortunately, it's not always been the right kind of folks hearing about us. About two years ago, we started to experience break-ins. The thieves stole neither money nor feed, but birds. The first birds taken - a high quality pair of Seramas - at least made sense to steal. But after that, it degraded into the most nonsensical things being taken - mixed breed chicks and roosters people would pay you to take from them - and someone was going through all the trouble of climbing a 6' fence and avoiding security cameras to steal them. Things came to a head when, a little over a year ago, someone stole our flock Silkie, Napoleon. This bird wasn't just a favorite of customers, he was a beloved pet. We put out posters, ads in the newspaper, told our customers to keep an eye out for him - even offered a hefty reward for his return. It's important to note that about six weeks prior to the disappearance of Napoleon, we also had a different rooster stolen - a young Silver Phoenix cockerel. Napoleon, the fiercest bantam around It was about a week later that my boss called me to inform Napoleon had been returned - and he wasn't the only thing that showed up on our doorstep. Nestled in a blue plastic bin with air holes cut in the top and a note taped to it, was Napoleon, a Silkie mix hen, and four young chicks. The note detailed the actions of an anonymous local (the note was signed "Your friendly neighbor, Foghorn Leghorn") who had seen our ad in the newspaper seeking Napoleon's safe return. According to the note, they had seen a bird that looked like him wandering their neighbor's yard, along with several other chickens. They described some pretty horrific circumstances - the previous "owners" not only provided no shelter and little food or water, but also allowed their dogs to chase and kill the chickens. In an attempt to prevent further deaths, Mr. or Ms. Leghorn collected the birds, "hoping one of them was the one that was stolen", and left them at our doorstep. I came into work the next day and greeted Napoleon, who was looking quite happy to be back home. I also took the opportunity to check out the new additions. In a cage in the back of the shop was a Silkie mix hen - black, flat feathered, and quite friendly. Along with her were four chicks, perhaps five or six weeks of age. Based on their color and type, I guessed they were Silkie, Sumatra, Gamefowl, and Phoenix crosses (remember the Phoenix rooster I mentioned being stolen several weeks prior to Napolen? Yes, that's daddy!) Two were pure black, and the other two were varying shades of black and silver. One of the silvers was an obvious rooster - he was already sprouting an obvious comb and stood tall and proud. The other three all looked quite henny at the time. Dylan, the silver cockerel, at about four months old From the get go, one of the black chicks was noticeably friendlier than the others. She would come up to the front of the cage to greet me, even as the other three hid in the back behind their mother. I took to holding this chick often, and she would nearly fall asleep in my arms. It was about five weeks after that that "she" started growing long, thin saddle feathers, and I realized she was not a she at all. By this time it was firmly decided the bird was mine, and his sudden gender swap wasn't going to deter me from keeping him. At the end of his "fluffy dinosaur" stage. It was at about this age that momma started to get tired of her babies. They had far outgrown the small pen they shared, and so off to the pullet pen they went. Of course, this came with the hitch that these, being presumed gamefowl mixes, were quite capable of flight. The day after placing them in the pullet pen with our "for sale" birds, we opened the shop to find all four of them out, wandering around. The silver cockerel and two pullets had happily occupied themselves with making an absolute mess of the hay pile, but the friendly little cockerel was no were in sight. That's when I heard a frantic "pee, pee, pee" - the sound of a distressed chick. It was coming from Norman's mother's cage. I found him pacing frantically back and forth outside her coop, crying in desperation. My first though was huh- a momma's boy. Anyone else here a fan of old horror movies? I am, and Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" is among my favorites. For anyone who hasn't seen it, it regards a rather strange man named Norman Bates who, among other things, runs a motel and has an unsettlingly close relationship with his mother. See any resemblance? And so the weird little friendly cockerel was dubbed "Norman." About six months old - still a bit gangly! As they matured, the other cockerel - Dylan - was given to a good home, and my best friend ended up purchasing both of the females. Sadly, Norman's mother was stolen from the shop several months later, presumably by her previous "owner." This prompted us to take some precautionary measures in the form of barbed wire along all sides of the fence, and we haven't lost any birds since. Norman took up residence in the back of the shop, and has been there ever since. He spends his nights in a large dog crate, and each day he is let out to range the shop and parking lot. Customers like him as much as we do! He's always a good sport if I need to teach someone how to hold a bird properly, how to apply a hen saddle, or even just to teach wary kids that not all roosters are mean. He's become an absolute pillar of our poultry family and I hope he continues to be for many years. Hanging out and having fun! His most recent adventure included a trip to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California; over the course of three days he was petted and handled by (in my estimation) well over 1,000 people, many of whom were kids from local schools! He was a fan favorite in our vendor booth, and since we were right next to the poultry barn, he was often seen walking down the isles, peering up at the show birds as if to say, "Ha! You may be fancy, but I can go wherever I want!" Norman in his vest at the Heirloom Expo He even won the crowing contest, with a total of 12 crows in the final round! What a pretty ribbon... So what's next for Norman? Hopefully, progeny! I've managed to convince my friend to loan me one of his sisters for a time. She shares his excellent personality, size, shape, and color. The only notable differences between the two are her lack of a beard, and her more heavily feathered feet. Norman's sister, Norma My current goals for the breeding project include slightly reducing size, maintaining Norman and Norma's friendly and talkative personality, maintaining and increasing the stock's health and vigor, and adhering to a physical and aesthetic standard currently being written and revised. Beyond that, I'd like to expand Norman's social scope - take him to classrooms, agricultural events, and anywhere else he can function as an educational animal and aid in spreading the joy of poultry. 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