Cock Tale: A Spiteful Rooster | A Considerable Town | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Cock Tale: A Spiteful Rooster 

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Right: That Wascally Mayor: When Colleen Bellenfant, 11, of Rancho Palos Verdes won the regional Literacy Poster Contest, she was slated to be honored with an inspirational book reading by L.A. Mayor James Hahn and an appearance by the Nestlé® Nesquik™ Bunny. Uninspiringly, the incredible shrinking mayor never showed at the event, held at San Pedro’s Gaffey Street Vons, but the Bunny made out like Warren Beatty.

Last spring, I plucked Janucz from his shell, the only male chick in a clutch of three that I’d assisted into life with the help of a $20 incubator. While his girlfriends emerged as two golden puffballs fascinated with everything in sight, Janucz just lay in his egg snoozing, poking his beak out for air and even chirping on rare occasion, but generally displaying little interest in being born, or in the challenges that might ensue from it.

Black with gold trim, he appeared more like a penguin than a chicken, holding himself more upright than the others. At just 2 weeks of age, Janucz was at least a third larger than either of his nest mates, being the only one to sport a conspicuous comb and wattles that were already turning pink. That’s how I knew Janucz was a rooster.

Where the girls were inquisitive, Janucz was merely quizzical. Where they looked at me straight on, Janucz would observe with his head slightly tilted. I believe he saw everything from an angle.

The birds were all housed, during their youth, in a large dog cage — carpeted with cedar chips and decorated with perches and a heating lamp — that was parked in a corner of the living room in my Hollywood apartment. Once or twice a day, I would let them cavort in the room. As the females assertively pecked flecks of lint from the carpet, Janucz watched cautiously before he tried the same. As I lay on the floor, the girls would jump onto my back. Janucz might eventually join them, but never would he initiate such a bold adventure.

The females metamorphosed into rust-colored pullets; Janucz feathered out into a statuesque, living weathervane with black and white stripes, looking (and behaving) something like a prison convict. At the age of 3 months, they all moved outside into an enclosed pen with a hutch. Shortly thereafter, hormones must have kicked in, for Janucz, already intimidatingly large, grew fat, and his voice got very deep. His walking turned into slow-motion strutting, propping up his new-felt responsibility for protecting his hens with overblown self-importance.

About this time, Janucz started to crow — not the penetrating soprano crow you hear as rural atmosphere in so many movies. His crowing was more husky and crude, like that of a child learning to play alto sax. My first in a series of apologies to neighbors on Janucz’s behalf came after somebody inquired when the rooster might perfect his technique. I answered truthfully: That’s as good as he’ll get. A chicken expert told me that crowing is the rooster’s way of saying, “I am here, and I am in charge.”

To avoid Janucz’s waking people with a sunrise serenade, I kept him in a cardboard box every night in my darkened hallway, not letting him outside until at least 10 a.m. This established a ritual of carrying the bird in my arms to and from his pen. On these trips, I would rub his chest and talk to him, and he would cluck back most amicably in his basso profundo. During these sessions, I grew very attached to him; and, I believe, he to me, even though one morning, while in my arms, he took a rather sharp peck at my wrist. I explained to him the moral of biting the hand that feeds, but I don’t believe he understood or cared.

He was no more considerate of the girls. Upon being set outside, Janucz would immediately chase the hens, grab them and mount them with no illusion of romance. On one occasion, they flew from the ground to my shoulder for protection — a leap he was too fat to make. He stood at my feet, circling, gazing upward — at an angle — clucking in obvious agitation.

Another morning, while I was setting the food dish in their pen, he took another shot at my arm. I responded with a sharp swipe to his head — a gesture that shocked him. He never attacked me after that.

One time, a woman in open sandals was carrying clothes from the laundry room near the pen to her apartment, when Janucz, roaming free, waged a rather hostile campaign against her painted red toenails, forcing her to jump around while balancing a bag of underwear and towels. After rescuing her, I explained that he had probably mistaken her toes for rose petals. She didn’t really believe me, and neither did I.

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