Fall-Winter 2013 Poultry Press NEXT
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A Rooster’s Tale: A Year in the Life of a Clan of Chickens

By Claudia Bruckert
HenschelHAUS Publishing, 2013
Available in English and German
Available in English from United Poultry Concerns $20

Review by Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

a roosters tale

“Can chickens talk? What does a rooster do all day? Would a mother hen attack a hawk?
What happens within a family of chickens?”

These questions, posed by the author of A Rooster’s Tale, are beautifully and tenderly answered by the young rooster, Change, who tells the story of his life, as he sits, adorable and bright-eyed, perched on a fence, one year after he and his brothers and sisters hatched under their silvery-gray mother, Margarete, in a handsome two-story coop with full access to the outdoors, including the brook they wade in and the trees they sit in, once they’re old enough.

His story is a lyrical drama, full of color and sound, of voices and activities which place these vibrant chickens in a world of their own within the dynamic ecology of life surrounding them. Anyone who lives with chickens, as I do, knows how vocal chickens are. Roosters crow and hens cluck, but the vocabulary of chickens is much more varied. As Change explains, “Our chicken language is a wonderfully melodious and extensive one. You’ll hear every sound from very gentle and lovely to unpleasantly piercing and harsh. Every tone has its distinct meaning. All emotions, their own pitch and volume. Every action, its very particular sound, its own tune.” He reveals to us, by example and dramatization, how totally attuned chickens are “with sounds that guide us as reliably as our eyes and feet.”

Change’s family not only live among trees; they have a family tree, with Mama and Papa, Uncle Fritz, brother Franziskus, sister Mirabelle, Aunt Leona, and the other clan members who share and contribute to the family history and personal biography of each bird. Since A Rooster’s Tale is designed to entice and educate children and adults of our species, the chickens are humanized to the extent that Change uses verbal language to tell his story. But what distinguishes this book, in addition to the beautiful color photographs by the author that accompany the narrative, and the delightful illustrations, is that it portrays the actual behaviors, interests, and enthusiasms of chickens, through Change’s vivid account.

As well as the exuberantly happy adventures that fill A Rooster’s Tale, there are occasional squabbles, trembling dangers, separations and strains of sadness. When they are 12 weeks old, seven of Change’s brothers are abruptly sent away, one hopes harmlessly, “to the country where there were no angry neighbors to complain about our joyously loud trumpet calls.” Change evokes the three mother hens’ distress over this “sudden loss-hurt,” and how, on that painful evening “our mothers spread their wings over the remaining chicks-unbeknownst to us, for the last time.” This is gut-wrenching, but the mothers are weaning their youngsters, who, after 10 excruciating days, “realized we would never again sit under our mothers’ wings.”

Thereafter, new adventures animate Change and his siblings, as they adjust to their new circumstances, and new places are discovered and excitedly explored. New experiences, Change tells us, include sunbathing with the dog (shown in a wonderful photograph) and the daily pleasures of being chickens that make “our hearts ring with joy” and “our life grow wings.”

A Rooster’s Tale is “A reading joy for children, adults, and everyone who takes animals seriously.” Author Claudia Bruckert, born in Munich, Germany, lives in Northern California with her husband, 2 dogs and 20 chickens. It is lovely to share their story.

Karen Davis, United Poultry Concerns

Fall-Winter 2013 Poultry Press NEXT