A Rooster Named Snake

☆ July 8, 2013


I’ll be honest – I was never fond of chickens, and that went double for roosters. Mike has always had chickens – Snake was actually hatched by one of Mike’s hens five years ago – but I never spent any quality time with them and they always skeeved me out. The only thing going for them, I thought, was that they are obviously descended from dinosaurs, and I do appreciate their eggs.

Mike loves chickens, so I kept these opinions to myself. He had five or six hens and roosters, and this spring, we were at the co-op and they had chicks, so we got five chicks. Then, Mike heard of someone who was moving and needed homes for their chickens, so he took a dozen of theirs. I thought he was crazy. Over twenty chickens! I was a little afraid.

At the same time, I was planning my garden. I wanted to have a full garden this year that would not get demolished by grasshoppers as has happened in the past at my house, so I decided to build raised redwood beds up at Mike’s house, flanking the chicken house. His chickens are completely free-ranging; they put themselves to bed in the chicken house each night but are never contained, as Mike’s dogs keep predators away, and they eat all the bugs around his place. I have never seen a grasshopper up there.

Throughout the spring and summer, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my garden and, therefore, around the chickens and have become quite smitten with them. I even built them a chicken trough for their food, which I am absurdly proud of. One day, I noticed one of the roosters was limping. I mentioned it to Mike and he said, “I know, but what can you do about a rooster foot?” It seemed to worsen over the next couple of days, so I crept up to the rooster and saw his foot was horribly swelled. I asked Mike to catch the rooster so that I could have a proper look at his foot. None of the hens and roosters are particularly tame, but it’s easy to sneak up on Snake because he only has one eye (this is why I named him Snake; my inner child is a twelve year old boy).

So Mike caught Snake and held him as I examined his foot. There was a large dark spot on the bottom that looked like it might be a scab, so I soaked his foot in warm water which made the scab come off easily. I won’t describe the rest because it was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. I put peroxide in the wound and then placed a cotton ball over the hole and wrapped his foot in vet wrap. Snake was calm throughout the procedure and seemed quite pleased with his new footwear. After craning his neck into a bizarre position in order to admire his bandage with his good eye, he walked around with much greater ease.

Since I didn’t really know what I was looking at (the interior of a rooster foot is very different than the interior of a mammal), I called my vet and described what I saw and did. He prepared two shots of chicken antibiotics for me and suggested iodine in the wound the next time I changed the wrap. Done and done, and Snake is on the mend.

When it was bad, Snake didn’t move around very much, so I’d take a handful of food to wherever he was sitting and sit down facing him and toss pellets and grain to him piece by piece, which he’d gobble up from a seated position. I’d carefully aim for his right side, so he’d see where the morsel would land, and tell him how handsome he was, and he’d do that darling chicken murmur back. Now he’s much more mobile and no longer needs me to bring him food, but he still lets me sit beside him and tell him how handsome he is.


72 Responses to “A Rooster Named Snake”

  1. hello haha harf
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    i love that your fondness for chickens grew as a result of them helping your garden. adorable.
    blow kisses at snake from me, please. i sure do think he is pretty.

  2. wright1
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    Love this account of another animal responding to your compassion, and both of you learning something in the process. The “murmur” you describe is a sound I’ve heard from chickens, cockateels and parrots; it seems to be a general expression of contentment, but also (in my experience) accompanies curiosity and affection.

  3. Roberta
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Yick. Bumblefoot. You are a very good caretaker. It’s amazing what they will let us do for them. Thanks for writing about this and I love Snakes name and photo. He looks like quite the dandy in his pink bandage.

  4. Amanda in Montana
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    I’m glad they have grown on you. Our chickens are some of my favorite animals at our house! They do have such personalities….One of our roosters, “Leroy” will hop up on your leg when you crouch down for a visit and loves a bouquet of grass. Don’t wear ear rings when you are working close to them, they will peck them out – – trust me! I’ve had a few peck at the freckles on my arm! Have fun with your flock…Chicks rule!

  5. NancyD
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    You are so amazing with animals. I love your stories and love the picture of Snake! As soon as I saw the bandage, I knew a story had to follow!

  6. Sherri Cox
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    I really enjoyed this! I think chickens are so calming with their little sounds and how they scratch with their feet. So happy that you now have a fondness for the chicken! PS For some reason I can no longer access your twitter, did something change that you know of? Thanks.

  7. shreve
    July 8th, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    S ~ uh oh! nothing’s changed that I know of – how are you checking it? via your twitter or ???

  8. Hannah
    July 8th, 2013 @ 11:13 am

    Thank you for helping him! My ducks get a similar problem from time to time. Doc calls it bumblefoot. It is just like you described, with the hard, dark scab that you must remove before the infection can heal. I used to pay $90 a pop at the vet before I learned that the ducks heal just as well when I do it myself!

    One tiny nitpicky thing (I can’t resist): when you say “chickens and roosters,” I think you mean “hens and roosters.” Chickens = the species as a whole. Like cattle! You have cows and bulls that make up your herd of cattle. Hens and roosters make a flock of chickens.

    There. I’m done now. :]
    Much love from a fellow chicken admirer in Maine!

  9. Robin
    July 8th, 2013 @ 11:25 am

    If you love your cows, you can surely love chickens. If Mike’s aren’t tame, that may be part of the problem (I see this as an enormous problem, because I believe everybody should have chickens, and should be on affectionate terms with them). It’s too late in the season for chicks this year, but I highly recommend getting 2-3 chicks next spring, and hand-raising them with lots of physical contact. They’re funny, sociable critters, they have soft fluffy butts (no, really–touch a chicken’s butt sometime), and they LOVE head scratches. If they’re time. All my best to Snake–may his handsome self heal quickly.

  10. Jenny C
    July 8th, 2013 @ 11:32 am

    Oh… well… this was a delightful post. I must say, it helps assuage the grief over Ricardo just a bit. Beautiful pic of Snake – such rich, beautiful coloring on this bad boy. So glad you’re gutsy and smart enough to treat animal ailments so that he’s on the mend and much more comfortable.
    Yo, Snake, work that pink bandage and strut like a coop homey.

  11. shreve
    July 8th, 2013 @ 11:36 am

    H ~ THANK YOU for the lesson – I had no idea! :)

  12. Heidi
    July 8th, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    Love that you’re catering to his inner Ricardo! Snake will be posing for his look at me series any day!

  13. PATR
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    Twitter – the link is not working any longer on Daily or here….

    I love Snake and am tickled that you have grown fond of the chickens. They are amazing animals and their chatter is so amusing when they start bedding down. I think about little old ladies retelling what all they did that day. About the bugs they ate, the eggs they laid and the general going on around the place.

  14. Jenn
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:17 pm

    This is such a great post, absolutely love it. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt, sometimes we learn to like animals we never cared for before when they need our care.

  15. PATR
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

    OH – forgot to add that my Dr told me about why we don’t use peroxide any longer. (I did a STUPID thing and opened a metal lobby door over the top of my foot and sliced three toes open pretty bad…. Still can’t wear socks or shoes that touch them and it’s been 4 weeks) YES OUCH!

    So to initially clean a wound within the first 24 hours is okay. BUT once a wound starts healing – the peroxide will actually ‘eat’ away at the new skin trying to grow over the wound and slow the healing process.

    The Dr told me to apply Neosporin on the cuts 3 or 4 times a day until they are healed. Covering them would be “BEST” but on toes that was quite impossible – so they stay uncovered and I tread CAREFULLY….

  16. Siobhan
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    I could have told you that chickens are quite entertaining to have as friends. We had chickens when I was growing up and one of them was so attached to me that I carried her around under my arm and she rode along making a sort of grunting sound that I think of as “happy chicken.” Friends of ours have chickens and one has adopted her daughter and sits on the daughter’s shoulder and preens the daughter’s hair, just like a parrot does. I can’t have chickens now, but I have a flock of parrots and a starling and a pigeon. Birds are very social creatures and the kind of relationship you have with them is far more give and take than you can have with a dog. Dogs are almost always subservient and eager to please. Birds have minds of their own and don’t care if you’re pleased. LOL

  17. Jaimie
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    Hencam.com has a great blog and FAQ area regarding raising chickens and is packed with health related information if you want a good online source.

  18. Karyn
    July 8th, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    Glad you’ve discovered the zen of chickens. They are very interesting creatures with very distinct personalities.

    Do the dogs ever bother the chickens, or visa versa?

    More pictures please!

  19. Eunice
    July 8th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    I’m so glad you found out how great hens are! I love them. I have four girls and they never fail to make me smile, even when I’m feeling down. My black rock girl, Inara, is 9 years old and has had a slight stroke. But she’s still laying eggs and bossing everyone around, including our three cats. She likes to come into the house and sit on the floor beside me. They really are affectionate and companionable. Hope Snake gets well soon!

  20. Eunice
    July 8th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    I’m so glad you found out how great hens are! I love them. I have four girls and they never fail to make me smile, even when I’m feeling down. My black rock girl, Inara, is 9 years old and has had a slight stroke. But she’s still laying eggs and bossing everyone around, including our three cats. She likes to come into the house and sit on the floor beside me. They really are affectionate and companionable. Hope Snake gets well soon!

  21. Joanna
    July 8th, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    I absolutely love this story and I think you need to write a children’s book about your rooster named Snake ;). Awesome.

  22. Jenny C
    July 8th, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    Oh geez, PATR – OUCH! Hope you’re feeling better. Learned long ago that vitamin e on wounds speeds healing and usually prevents scarring. I puncture a vit. e capsule w/a pin and squeeze the contents directly onto the wound. (Vit. e in a bottle doesn’t seem to be as effective, for some reason.) You can see the wound heal much more cleanly, and scars rendered invisible. Biopsy on my face w/stitches 2 wks ago; I alternated vit. e and Neosporin. Healed very fast, suture marks already gone and texture and coloring already remarkably better. My son severely burned himself on his arm, and I thought he’d be badly scarred for life. I put vit. e on it 2 – 3 times per day for maybe 2 wks, and neither of us can even find a hint of where he burned himself.
    Don’t know if it would help animals, but would be interesting to find out, wouldn’t it? It’s thick so it’s also very soothing and provides a nice barrier from air that can cause wound pain, which is especially helpful for burns. Maybe someone else has found a better oil for scar prevention, but it’s worked well for me for years and years. Good luck, PATR and Snake. :)

  23. amanda
    July 8th, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

    Aww, yay! I’m glad to hear of your chicken conversion, they are so lovely. And, the feathers they drop make fantastic earrings… just sayin…maybe you could add some into your jewelry making/playing :)

  24. TomT
    July 8th, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

    Love this (your) post. From one animal lover to another. My dream is to own some rural land and get some animals to care for. Right now it’s just a dog and 5 cats in suburbia.

  25. Nathalie
    July 8th, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

    Roosters crack me up and also frighten me. Those claws look like they could be ruthless and the waking at dawn…well, nevermind. I have a one-eyed cat, his name is Reno for Reno the Renegade :-)

  26. disrhythmic
    July 8th, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

    Snake is so handsome!

    I don’t have a rooster, but I do have six hens, and they’re so wonderful to be around. They all have different personalities and will let me scoop them up for a cuddle. I could watch them for ages. Definitely chicken zen. :)

  27. Marva
    July 8th, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    You are a good, good person with deep compassion for living things…Snake, just a perfect name and now a lucky rooster.

    Thanks for this post!


  28. mlaiuppa
    July 8th, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

    He is quite handsome.

    And as to the question of what would dinosaurs taste like? Easy. Just like chicken.

    Snake, huh? I probably would have gone with Long John Silver. Or Lucky.

  29. Maranda
    July 8th, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    Chickens are quite amazing animals if you sit down and get to know them. Especially when you ge into keeping fancy chickens like silkies. They’re DARLING. I’m really happy you learned to like them. :)

  30. Kelley Rico
    July 8th, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

    Ha, ha. I’m a ten year old boy, I think. However, I can recommend something for bites, wounds, bloody stumps, etc. we found out here that is fabulous: Vetricyn. Feed stores have it. You just spray it on wounds- it’s for animals but we use it too, even in eyes, it cleans and heals. Amazing stuff. Good work on that foot and personally I like the pink!

  31. pam
    July 8th, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

    so now, one MORE thing to add to your resume…
    rooster whisperer / healer.

    I have decided that you are doing a great job with the life I would have lived had I not been so stupid in my teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s…but hey, maybe since I’m almost in my 60s, I’ll wise up. None the less, you keep up the great work and making me smile at almost everything you write.

  32. Karen
    July 8th, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

    What a touching story, Shreve. You are a wonderful story teller.

  33. penny in co
    July 8th, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    aww Shreve great work as always! I think he is beautiful :)

  34. Kristan
    July 8th, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    You may be the gentlest soul I know. :)

  35. carmel
    July 8th, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

    What a hunk, strutting his stuff, pink and all!!!! Great story.

  36. Claire
    July 8th, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

    Snake is very handsome. I’ve never owned chickens but have had neighbors that did. I loved watching them.
    Mike bringing home more and more chickens. How sweet. Reminds me of Kim the gal that runs the rescue horse ranch I volunteer at. Burros were rounded up from the southern desert here in AZ and brought to a place to be adopted. Well the ranch now has 20 burros that were saved from (you know what) The plan is to find homes for each one. They are beautiful and the babes are the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

  37. Chris
    July 9th, 2013 @ 5:46 am

    I just have to send you the link to this website – it has very little to do with limping chickens – although of course that is where the name came from but it does show Deaf people in the UK have a vast and rich sense of humour and I think you might enjoy it.

  38. Holly
    July 9th, 2013 @ 6:39 am

    Loving this…they are all Gods’ creatures…

  39. Barbara R
    July 9th, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    HA! That one-eyed Snake is a mighty fine…er, rooster. Greetings from my inner 12-year-old to yours. :)

  40. Karla
    July 9th, 2013 @ 7:36 am

    Another great post. I hope Snake fully recovers from his boo boo. He is quite the handsome fellow.

  41. lenje
    July 9th, 2013 @ 7:47 am

    Snake is a handsome rooster, and it looks like he’s really proud of his pink bandage. Show ’em that real men wear pink, Snake! :))))

    When I was little, it was quite common for people in my country to keep some chicken at home, even in the cities. But they were always regarded as, er, food stock. Anyway, one time someone gave my sister and I a chick, which we kept as a pet, and we named her Cherry Pie. She was some personality. She got along really well with our dog and loved to sit on our laps! Sadly, she got sick one day, and without us knowing, my grandmother — who lived with us — decided she’d better serve as our meal :(. We never had a pet chicken anymore :(. So, it’s amazing to read stories about people with their chickens here — never knew they can live as long as 9 years!

  42. Marg
    July 9th, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    Another super healer is pure unpasturized honey. Slather it on and watch it heal. Exceptional on burns. Good story Shreve, you should consider compiling these in a short story book called My Life With Animals. I know you have lots of spare time to do that lol.

  43. Maggie
    July 9th, 2013 @ 9:44 am

    Awww big smile :) I get my eggs from a lady near me and I love giving the hens a cuddle now and then. Getting chickens next summer, very excited!

  44. catherine
    July 9th, 2013 @ 10:02 am

    I am with Jenny 10, it eases the pain of losing Ricardo,I like his name, he is a cute fellow….Watch out for the neighbors dogs !

  45. tigeron
    July 9th, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    I’m back!! When I signed off 3 years ago the prognosis was for less than a month, but through the Grace of God and the wonderful Drs. at MD Anderson I got better. Over this time there have been set-backs, and the reaper has been close a couple of times,but as I approach my 67th birthday I’m doing pretty good. I have kept up and caught up with ya’ll over this time, but decided to simply observe.
    Shreve when you write about the animals and your love and care for them, it just flows, it has harmony, it has passion and compassion. It is Shreve. This was your purpose in Montana. Suddenly, and by choice, you moved into another venue; Shreve the business woman, which, if I may be so presumptuous is not your passion. Don’t get me wrong. I think everything about Star-Brand Beef is great and wonderful, but I do believe the time and energy it takes away from, you just being Shreve, has created the turmoil you’ve alluded to in the past. I’ve had my say. Give Mr. Charley a hug for me. I remember fondly when it was just us.

  46. Pat H
    July 9th, 2013 @ 11:59 am

    What a beautiful photograph from ground level showing Snakes colors. You must have been on the ground?

    Homeopathic hypericum would also help a foot injury. Can put in water if he drinks. A dropper full of the remedy in water would also help.

  47. TeriGrace Nielsen
    July 9th, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

    In my experience, chickens are funny critters. Seems most of them are kinda dumb or mean but every once in a while you come across one that is really quite personable…. Look forward to hearing how You and Snake’s (love the name) relationship progresses.

  48. Kristen
    July 9th, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    This story is great. My neighbors have chickens and they can be incredibly sweet and full of personality (even if a little on the not-so-smart side). Glad you helped Snake!

  49. Amy
    July 9th, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    A rooster was abandoned on my parents’ lawn in suburbia. We named him Fabio for the mane of blond feathers cascading down his neck.

    Roosters are like bodybuilders stuck in tiny chicken bodies. They are so much fun to watch strut.

  50. Deborah
    July 9th, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing and do take the advice to write a children’s book about a rooster named Snake. I’ll buy one for the grandkids I don’t have yet. (c:

  51. Karen
    July 9th, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

    I love this story for so, very, many reasons!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. timesr
    July 9th, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

    Another chicken lover here applauding your transformation.

  53. Meredith Mayeroff
    July 9th, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    That is absolutely the best story yet. You have shared with us some incredible adventures, but I think I love this one the most. Thank you!

  54. mlaiuppa
    July 9th, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

    I used manuka honey when I got bit by a dog. Worked great.

    Not sure how well it would work with a chicken. You’d have to clean and change at least three times a day and being honey, they might peck at the bandage wanting to eat the salve.

  55. Melodie
    July 9th, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

    Loved this post. Made me cry. Rooster are…well they’re boys!

  56. torre
    July 10th, 2013 @ 7:10 am

    awwww, what a sweet story!!! I’m glad you were able to help Snake and that he’s feeling better!!

  57. Judy
    July 10th, 2013 @ 7:33 am

    Simply wonderful (and almost tear provoking) o read another account of how you care for all our great gifts of creation. Lucky Snake! Thanks Shreve!

  58. Suzette
    July 10th, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    FYI- a good way to soak bird feet is to get one of the cat or small dog carriers that are made of molded plastic. They have a lip at the bottom of the door, so it will hold an inch or so of water. I usually mix epsom salt with water in the bottom of the crate, and put the duck, goose or chicken in the crate to hang out for a while. They seem to also like drinking the water with the epsom salt. This is actually OK for them – though usually the birds don’t have a problem with constipation!

    You can also get over-the-counter ointment for staph infections.

  59. Yvonne
    July 10th, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    Snake seems like a good central character for a children’s book! :)

  60. Jeanne
    July 10th, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    Snake is so handsome! I had chickens growing up and I went out everyday to lift rocks so they could eat the bugs underneath. I found them to have a great sense of humor. My particular favorite was Teensy, the runt who almost died when she hatched. I loved her so much and she became strong, was my garden buddy for 6 years, and lasted the longest out of all of them. Teensy would’ve had a crush on Snake – I’m sure of it!

  61. bumblebee
    July 10th, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    Awwww BLESS YOU for helping Snake! I LOVED reading this story. :) How very sweet of you. I LOVE chickens and YES! they are great characters!!
    The book idea sounds good! You could have several, one for each animal.
    HUGS and love……

  62. SEMcC
    July 11th, 2013 @ 8:39 am

    Snake sure is a looker! Thanks for the awesome post :)

  63. goddess
    July 11th, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Am I the only one who wants to know what you saw when the scab came off?

  64. shreve
    July 11th, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    G ~ Well, thanks to other commenters, we now know the condition is called Bumblefoot, which I refuse to google because I’m worried about the pictures that might pop up. But you can go for it!

    I’ve been drenched in puss and blood, hit with placentas, sprayed with shit – no problem, no big deal with any of that. But I almost threw up three times when I was doctoring Snake’s foot. It was hauntingly disgusting.

  65. Suzanne Edwards
    July 11th, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    Chicken whisperer you are! You are truely a bone deep person good person.

  66. SDC
    July 11th, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

    Shreve, you’ve managed to bring up a coyote, induce placidity while scratching the balls of a bull and make a bosom buddy out of a rooster. You really need to run in the next presidential election.

  67. Kimmy
    July 14th, 2013 @ 6:39 am

    Snake is such a handsome rooster! I can clearly visualize him admiring his new bandage. :D

    Charming story!

  68. Deborah
    July 14th, 2013 @ 11:40 am

    Oh, he IS a head-turner! And what a loving caregiver you are. I’m glad Snake is on the mend and that he, and ALL the animals, have you tending to them. The are the luckiest animals in the world… besides my 7 cats.

  69. Rayjay
    July 14th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    This comment doesn’t have a thing to do with poultry… Apart from that I love chicken watching (it’s like people watching, only with chickens).

    I’m writing to ask about that silver calf you had born at your place earlier this year.

    I live in dairy country and you can’t go anywhere here without passing by or through someone’s farm. A week or so after ‘your’ calf was born, there was one born on a farm I pass daily on my way to work. (It’s some sort of hobby/personal-use herd as far as I can tell. Always 12 or less cattle, of various breeds) The calf’s mother is an angus, but I have no idea what the father was. Angus x whatever = silver?)

    Observing him over the months, his color has ‘faded’ to a somewhat taupe-y shade which, while not unattractive, is somewhat less interesting than his original color. (He’s got a magnificent head on him, though. He’ll be a gorgeous thing if he doesn’t end up in the freezer.)

    This made me wonder about your calf though: Has he kept his color, or has he faded too?

  70. shreve
    July 14th, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

    R ~ She’s not with us anymore – the owners moved them closer to their house. :( But, same thing – she faded to a pale dusty tan/beige color.

  71. Carrie
    July 19th, 2013 @ 7:46 am

    So glad to hear that you have joined the Chicken Appreciation Club! Birds are quite wonderful; after raising two pigeons last summer who quite literally fell on my head (well, one of them did), I even turned my friends and neighbors into pigeon fans!

  72. Martha Parks Johnson
    July 21st, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

    I love the story about Snake! I had a pet rooster named “Lonesome” when I was growing up who was blind in one eye. He was a great pet! Thanks for caring about the chickens.

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