A friend worth crowing about

Friendship is truly wonderful. It always seems like such a random thing, to find someone you genuinely like, who just happens to like you back. Properly nurtured, it can be a lifelong treasure. I find that I?ve made some of my best friends in highly unlikely places. Take Albus, for instance.

This relationship began by accident. Our eyes met across the crowded auction ground for the smallest instant. He was surrounded by an assortment of pretty girls. All of them seemed young and in high spirits.

As they strutted and preened, I moseyed toward them. The closer I got, the more it just seemed like it was meant to be. I had to have them. All of them.

Oh, did I mention that they were chickens? I guess not. My bad.

So here I stood, staking out ?my territory? next to this cageful of what appeared to be young pullets of various breeds. The bidding started, and I won. (I paid more than I wanted to, but hey, you know how these things go.)

A friend of mine wanted a few of them, so we stopped by her place to drop off her and her new chickens, and I headed home with my lovely assortment of ?ahem? pullets.

Sure enough, one of the prettiest white ones soon started to look like a rooster. The other roosters I had at the time thought so, too, and picked on him mercilessly.

One morning, I found him missing an eye from a fight the night before. The poor boy never even got to crow?the others attacked him whenever he tried.

The thought did cross my mind that I should probably just put him out of his misery, but somehow I never got around to it. Then I got sick, and he just didn?t make my list of ?must dos.?

So he stuck around, skulking around the edges of the coop, trying to stay unnoticed. He did have a certain dignity to him, and you had to give him credit for managing with only one eye.

He made it through the summer and the winter, and then the unthinkable happened. A possum got into the coop. The carnage was incredible. However, thanks to Mr. Possum (quickly dispatched by my sharpshooter hubby), Albus was suddenly the only boy in the coop, and there were enough hens to make it worth his while.

Overnight, the transformation was miraculous. That pitiful one-eyed mutt bird had a flock to take care of, and he did it with every feather of his body. Suddenly, he could crow, and crow he did, even if it did sound like a scalded cat caught in an ungreased screen door. Even if I wanted to slaughter him now, it?d be a waste of time?his neck swivels around so much, I?m not sure anything could cut those muscles.

Of course, I thought he might appreciate some help, so I brought home another young rooster. Beau was gorgeous, a breed I had wanted, and seemed pretty easy going.

That lasted all of about a week. He started attacking me, my hubby, and the kids. I?m here to tell you, chickens aren?t much fun when you?ve got to watch your back for an airborne feathery football aimed at you with the sole intent of scaring the dickens out of you.

So, in stepped my friend Albus. He?d spent long enough on the receiving end of getting picked on, and figured it was his turn to deal the smackdown. Whenever I go into the coop or the run these days, Albus is there, watching my back in case Beau gets any ideas.

Just today, I went out to collect eggs. Albus made sure Beau was out in the pen, then the old boy himself came into the coop and stood in the doorway to make sure I could check the nestboxes in peace.

I could tell he wanted to go outside and make sure his other girls were OK, but he managed to wait until I was done. I could have hugged him, but I didn?t want to ruin his image in front of his ladies.

Of course, I have to keep talking to him so he knows where I am. Coming up to him on his blind side makes him kind of twitchy.

So cherish your friends, folks, and don?t forget that sometimes you make the best ones in the most unexpected places. Oh, and beware of attack roosters.