There most certainly are characteristics and traits which we esteem and laud above others. The noble act of fighting for our country is, as it well must be, at the top of the list. Then we have the kindness that goes beyond just being polite and delves into the depths of nurturing love such as is found in a mother toward her children. These traits move and inspire us. These are virtues indeed. Animal people, pet owners, and anyone who has loved on some creature other than human, knows how we ascribe human characteristic to our beloved companions. We all know of the loyalty of Man’s Best Friend. Dogs are an easy example of how we anthropomorphize. Is it wrong? I don’t think so. There is virtue aplenty in Fido’s willingness to lay down his life to protect and defend his human. But is there virtue in such a thing that must be the end result since it stems from a hard-wired protein sequence in the DNA of any given creature? Must it behave as it does for it cannot otherwise? I don’t buy it. My roos are my proof. I’ve seen it in others, but Beethoven and Jake will sufficiently illustrate my point. One is the epitome of virtue, the other, its antipode. And this is where the whole ‘it’s just a chicken’ argument loses its footing. For here are two roos, both Barred Plymouth Rocks, both roughly the same age (Beethoven is 19 weeks, Jake 17), and both raised and living right here with us. These are my chickens. Truly some will think me insane, or at least, believe I have no life, when I tell of the words of Chicken-Speak that I’ve learned. That’s alright. But learned I have. The long, soft word tells me that there is an intruder in sight but not yet in striking range. The loud, staccato means the intruder is way too close. I laugh at the wildly random word that to human ears means ‘I have a treasure, I have a treasure’, but to chicken ears means ‘Come steal the grasshopper I just caught’. The most interesting one is the mid-volume, rhythmic chant that, once started, every chicken around joins in on. It means snake. I’ve heard this one several times. They all come running to see the snakes. As with humans, the range of vocabulary also varies in chickens. There is a word that elicits a definite and immediate reaction of all my hens. That Beethoven is the only one to use this word is the impetus for writing this and the evidence to prove that not all roosters are the same. When Beethoven finds some treat, some food, or even a patch of new tender grass, his virtue is made known. He isn’t one to hog it up, all others be ******. No. He calls out with his ‘I have something delicious for you’. And the hens know that it’s true. They flock to him. Beethoven is a good provider. He even shares when I hold out a handful of mealworms for him. This isn’t true of Jake. But there are more differences. One will protect his flock from any and all harm, as he is always vigilant and on duty. The other, only brings harm. Jake is a bully. He picks on any hen smaller than he is. Beethoven, on the other hand, moves freely among all hens as none fear him. In fact, he’s usually surrounded by them. One only mounts smaller hens, the other, only mounts mature ones. They are very different, these two. It would have been interesting to see how things worked out between them but we’ll never know. Jake is to be sold soon. Though Jake is bigger, I don’t think he’d ever challenge Beethoven, much less displace him. Jake just doesn’t possess the qualities of a leader. He cannot match the virtue clearly shown by his fellow roo. Beethoven is just too much rooster for him. The Superman of the chicken world. Which brings us to the Clark Kent side of him. Our birds are free-range. Tractor coops serve as a safe place to sleep, support for waterers and feeders, and a cozy place to lay eggs. Otherwise, our birds are outside. So after a long day of pecking, scratching and laying, when the sun begins to hide itself beneath the horizon, a strange ritual begins. The hens mostly tuck themselves in. We just have to close and lock the coops though, on occasion, maybe have to round up a straggler who just had to have one more grasshopper before bed. Not so with Beethoven, however. Bedtime changes him. He doesn’t go to bed. He won’t go in. Beethoven follows me as I make my rounds, gathering hens, locking doors, and saying good night. He’s right behind me. Then, when all others (including Jake) are in safely in bed, Beethoven wants lovin’. I’ll hold out my arm and he flies up to it. Then I sit on the swing or the lawn chair and he roosts on my shoulder. We talk for a while, going over the events of the day as we wind down. I’ll lay my head on him and he leans into me. Were it up to him, this is where we’d stay until morning brings the hens out again. I have to take him off of my shoulder. This is when I pet him, and do that scratching thing he taught me. He likes it when we scratch at the new rooster feathers on his neck and chest. Beethoven loves to be held. He enjoys being loved on. Then I have to put him to bed. I’d never imagined that a chicken, much less a rooster, could be so loving. Sure, the hens follow us everywhere, they jump into our laps, and some even like to sit on my better half’s head (an interesting sight indeed). But this rooster changes everything. Chickens aren’t dumb, heartless birds to be tolerated only for their nutritional value. They have hearts. Each one has a personality all its own and the ability to care and to cherish. Chickens are people too. I know, I’ve crossed the line. I’m to be counted among those we’ve all heard about. And you thought the weird cat-lady was bad. Until now, that is. You’re probably thinking that I’m not playing with a full deck, right? But I can’t help it. There is just something about Beethoven that goes beyond that of an ordinary chicken. He is Superman and he is Clark Kent. There just isn’t any other way to describe him. He’s a good roo. This is Beethoven.